ACC Network (TV channel)
(The Walt Disney Company, 80%; Hearst Communications, 20%)
|ACC Network Extra||
(U.S. cable internet subscribers only; requires login from pay television provider to access content)
The ACC Network is an upcoming American cable and satellite television channel that is owned by ESPN Inc. Announced on July 21, 2016, it will be dedicated to coverage of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and will launch in 2019. The channel will operate from ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, though some programming and staff will be based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Each ACC school will construct production facilities so they can contribute programming to the ACC Network.
Ahead of the linear channel's launch and as part of ESPN's expanded contract with the conference, ESPN launched the digital platform ACC Network Extra on WatchESPN in 2016, which streams ACC events not broadcast on television.
There had been repeated calls for the ACC to establish its own cable channel, similar to those that had or were being established by other Power Five conferences. From July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 (in the midst of realignment that saw Pittsburgh and Louisville announce that they would join the ACC, Maryland leave for the Big Ten, and Notre Dame join the ACC outside of football), the ACC took in less television revenue than the Pac-12, SEC and Big Ten conferences. The Big Ten and Pac-12 had already launched their own channels, while ESPN and the SEC had announced the SEC Network would launch in 2014. SEC Network's first year of operation ultimately increased the conference's television revenue by around $100 million.
In discussions with ESPN management, there were uncertainties over whether an ACC channel would be economically viable, due to cord cutting and changing television viewing habits. The stability of the ACC itself was also questioned, but was addressed in 2013 by requiring its teams to perform a grant of media rights, which gives the ACC media rights to all home games involving its current teams through the 2026–2027 season, even if they leave the conference. This policy effectively discourages schools from leaving the ACC, and left the SEC as the only Power Five conference to not have a similar grant. Eric J. Barron, president of Florida State University, stated that the grant would "ensure that the conference will strengthen its position of leadership among Division I athletics", and stated that "we are also very pleased that we will be moving forward on the next phase of developing an ACC network."
On July 21, 2016 at a media event in Charlotte, North Carolina, ESPN announced a 20-year extension of its contract with the ACC, and that it would launch a cable channel dedicated to the ACC in 2019 known as the ACC Network. The announcement was attended by ESPN president John Skipper and ACC commissioner John Swofford. Ahead of the linear channel, ESPN announced that it would begin to stream ACC events beginning in the upcoming 2016 season. Following the announcement, Skipper defended the decision to go on with launching a linear ACC channel, arguing that sports were the most valuable property on television because they are "the only thing you have to watch live".
The ACC Network is expected to carry 1,300 events per-year. As part of the deal, the ACC agreed to expand its conference schedule in college basketball to 20 games by the 2019-20 season, to provide additional content for ESPN and the ACC Network. ESPN also acquired the secondary ACC rights previously held by Raycom Sports for its syndicated ACC Network broadcasts. There is currently no information on any planned studio programming for the ACC Network. It is currently unknown if the new network will acquire rights to ACC football and basketball telecasts currently aired on Fox Sports Networks.
As a prelude to the linear service, ESPN launched the network's digital service, ACC Network Extra, for the 2016-17 season. ESPN promoted that ACC Network Extra would carry over 600 live telecasts per-season. ACC Network Extra is a service of WatchESPN and requires TV Everywhere authentication as a subscriber to ESPN on a pay television provider.
ESPN stated in June 2017 that it had reached carriage deals for the ACC Network with unknown providers. In October 2017, Altice USA committed to offering the channel as part of in its latest round of carriage negotiations with Disney.
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