It started out as a major announcement, when the ACC announce that, in conjunction with ESPN, would be releasing its own television network in time for the start of the 2019 football season, becoming the latest of the Power 5 conferences to do so (the Big 12 being the remaining holdout)
It was a major announcement that seemed inevitable given the movement towards conferences (and in some cases, individual schools) creating and maintaining networks of their own to broadcast games.
But now, the conference is staring down a crisis.
User azbc touched upon this in a FanPost, but the ACC Network is staggeringly under carried with roughly nine days left until release at press time. DirecTV and Verizon Fios appear to be the only traditional cable providers, in addition to YouTubeTV, Hulu and Playstation Vue.
Practically speaking, what does that mean? In both Atlanta and in Clemson, S.C., the homes of Georgia Tech and Clemson, who will be facing off to kick off the ACC Network’s tenure, the game will be all but blacked out.
And, relevant to the interests of our site, both RCN and Comcast are, as of right now, not carrying the ACC Network, which means for two of the first three games for BC, Eagles fans will have to go to a bar to watch the game because they won’t be able to get it at home, and even then they might be out of luck.
Now there are a variety of lenses to look at this situation through. ESPN senior Vice President Rosalyn Durant wants patience, as she noted in a press call a few days ago.
“I can tell you, (…) that we are very pleased with the distribution agreements that we have in place currently, and as you’d imagine, we continue to have lots of conversations, and productive conversations, with other distributors for ACC network coverage, in the ACC footprint and beyond the footprint” Durant said. “We are very fortunate also to already have multiple viable options in place for fans to access the network if their home distributor does not carry it. There are four national distributors in place already with DirecTV, Hulu Live TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV is the latest one, and we anticipate more options in the near future.”
And yet, there is the lens that looks at the frontier of sports networks with a more grim outlook. Conference sports networks have always been a dicey proposition. The first, the Big Ten Network, was overwhelmingly successful and has significant carriage. The SEC Network also had success on the wave of the conference’s dominance in football.
But, yet, there are some horror stories as well. The Pac-12 Network, even after some time on the air, still only is available in 19 million households. The Longhorn Network also had some problems with carriage during its launch as well.
Now, to be fair, the ACC Network already has more carriage than the Pac-12 Network thanks to DirecTV. And as our sister site in the link noted, negotiations do go down to the wire, and we’re not quite at the wire yet.
But it is getting to the point that it should be a wee bit concerning. As we saw with the Pac-12, negotiations don’t always go the way the conferences would like them to go. And right now we’re looking at a reality that means that fans in some of the conference’s biggest fanbases could be left in the dark.
A previous version of this article stated that Fios was the only option for New York. This article has been updated to include Optimum.