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Apr
27
2016

Speculating on the what an ACC Network could look like.

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As we wait and wait and wait and wait… on something definitive from the ACC Offices about an ACC Network, here’s something that hasn’t been in discussed in detail in quite awhile. What will be the format be?

At one time it was a for gone conclusion for me that an ACC Network would be very similar to the SEC Network.  That was 3 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. There’s cord cutting, there’s cost cutting going on at ESPN, internet streaming is becoming a very viable technology. It’s not straight forward any longer. Lets consider the possibilities of how a future ACC Network could be implemented and why.

No ACC Network

The scenario no ACC fan wants to hear. Unfortunately this is not out of the question. You know ESPN low-balled the Big 10 in their recent rights deal, and has lost out to Fox for at least half of the Big 10 rights up for negotiation. How deep is ESPN hemorrhaging money? Respected media members like David Teel, Wes Durham, and Dennis Dodd have alluded that if a network doesn’t happen the ACC will get a rights increase.

Likelihood? – 10%

At the moment, absolutely no network of any kind is unlikely. Unless there’s some language in there we don’t know about, I can’t imagine a flat increase of $2-3 Million would go over all that well with ACC member schools. The increase would be nice, but where would be the growth potential be over time? Would it increase every few years? This just doesn’t seem like forward thinking, or maybe guaranteed money is the safest route?

ACC Network like the SEC Network

As I said, this was the expected model in the past. This is straight forward – New channel, get carriage at a certain rate with X number of subscribers and there you are right? Anybody checked on the Pac 12 Network recently? Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott was hailed as a visionary a few years ago, and now there is a fair amount of frustration in the Pac 12 with his leadership. ESPN’s LonghornNetwork has been a bust.  Is ESPN ready to fight more carriage battles with cable providers just a few years after after launching the SEC Network?

Likelihood? – 35%

The ACC does have a huge television footprint – from Miami to the Northeast as John Swofford likes to say. I just get the feeling the timing is wrong. ESPN has become more cost conscious, and while I think a pure ACC Network would succeed, it is not the slam-dunk the SEC Network was. Let’s face it, if not enough fans demand it you’ll end up like the Pac 12 Network. Scenarios like turning ESPNNews or ESPNU into an ACC Network are possible and could save some startup costs. The Speed Channel relaunched as Fox Sports 1 not to long ago.

States like Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina would be easy ACC Network carries. While Georgia Tech trails UGA in fans in Georgia remember there are tons of ACC Alumni (FSU, Clemson, UNC in the Atlanta metro area). Georgia would be an easy sell too, as would Kentucky. Conservatively pockets of the Northeast would carry the channel. I won’t close the book on this scenario completely.

The Hybrid ACC Network – streaming + TV

This is the model that’s gaining steam. Wes Durham has favored this model for a number of years, and there are some existing similar models.  The WWE Network  is subscriber based streaming network, that  is starting to turn a profit having reached the break even number of subscribers of 1 Million a $9.99 at month. MLB.TV is also a possible model and maybe the likely platform model the ACC Network could follow.

That service remains limited to out-of-market games for live coverage, with the ability to watch in-market games on replay. MLB’s deal with Fox reinforces the idea that if you want to watch your home team play, you’ll need a pay TV subscription.

Just substitute ESPN here for FOX. There’s even team specific packages. MLB TV had over 3 Million Subscribers. If the ACC could just get 500,000 full subscribers at $100 a year for a Digital Channel that’s $50,000,000.

Likelihood? – 55%

From Andy Staples of SI.com in a recent article he wrote on the future of media rights. 

 

it seems more likely any ACC Network will be a multi-platform arrangement. This would better position it for a future in which everything will be streamed. Plus, the current ACC digital offerings created by a Chicago-based tech company called Silver Chalice are among the best in sports in terms of production value and ease of access. ESPN has a blueprint to follow if it chooses to go that direction.

I’m starting to lean in this direction. The pure conference channels won’t stop making money, but it may not make sense for the ACC join a saturated market of TV Channels. I like the idea of the ACC doing something first not fourth. Isn’t that the way the Big 10 network and the SEC Championship game started?  Joe Ovies at WRALSports.com wrote a series of articles on watching sports without cable.

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