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The Struggle That Has Been The Launch of The ACC Network

Miami fans are among those who have been hung out to dry

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 18 ACC Football Kickoff Photo by Jay Anderson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s less than a week until the season opener for the University of Miami. For the ACC, the launch of their TV network is closer than that. On August 22nd, the new conference-specific channel, the ACC Network, will launch in homes from South Florida all the way to those on the cold mountain peaks of Alaska. Just over a week after, the reigning national champions, the Clemson Tigers, will host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in week one of the CFB calendar. However, because of ongoing negotiations with many of the big ticket cable providers such as Comcast, Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse and Charter, many fans will have to find alternative ways to watch their favorite team in the fall.

The conference announced on August 6th that Youtube TV has agreed to carry the network upon launch. Youtube, a national provider, does help those concerned fans who feared that a lack of options would prevent them from gaining access to the new channel.

That uncertainty of a deal being struck before or soon after launch has many fans deciding whether to change their cable companies or cut the cord completely. Hulu and DirecTV were some of the first providers on board when the ESPN-backed network was announced.

For their part, ACC Commissioner John Swofford is urging college fans to contact their local cable provider to urge demand for the network. That’s right — the ACC wants to make the average college football fan into telemarketers to apply pressure to get a deal. Whether you like it or not — not many of us are fans of the tactic — it leaves all parties in a compromising position.

By partnering with ESPN — and its parent company Disney — the ACC has clout entering negotiations with the two big giants of the media industry on its side. Yet it doesn’t appear that the providers are backing down from a game of ‘chicken’ to see which side blinks first. What’s another channel to them among hundreds if not thousands of hours of programming?

Which leads us to, well, us, the fans. The unwitting pawns in this game, both sides are leveraging our dollars in a staredown. What’s at stake is our ability to watch Miami travel to North Carolina in the ACC opener, followed by a matchup with Bethune-Cookman. There’s no way around it — one way or another, the network and the providers are going to leave the dining table with the consumers picking up the check.

For some, this is a major deal. Those of the fanbase who are unable to see the Canes live, opt to watch them on some type of screen through any means necessary. For others, it’s another source of people trying to stick their hands in your wallet to pry away a hard-earned dollar. The ACC and service providers are well aware of fans’ desire for content about their favorite program. With launch day approaching, fans have to wonder if it’s worth it to make a switch of service providers, opt for a free trial or add another bill.

Perhaps it may not come to that at all. In the past, TV deals have been known to strike a deal days or sometimes only hours before launch. It was a similar scenario that took place when the SEC Network launched in 2014. Verizon (FIOS) and Cablevision did not come to an agreement with ESPN until August 21st, which was 7 days after the network launched. So there is precedent for deals being made late in the process.

For now the focus remains on the Hurricanes’ preparations for their season opening battle with the Florida Gators. Two weeks later, the team will make their ACC debut when they travel to North Carolina. The exposure gained from playing for the U is and will continue to be a selling point to recruits. It would be embarrassing not only for the program, but the conference to have the Canes play in their home opener with locals fans unable to watch their team because billion dollar companies couldn’t come to an agreement.

This is meant to be the season of giving. Someone needs to tell these decision makers to throw a bone to their consumers.