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Commissioner Mum on ACC Network Negotiations with Comcast



ACC Championship Game December 1, 2018 -- David Hague/PSN

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The commissioner of the ACC seemed uncertain about the likelihood of the ACC Network being available to the customers of one of Pittsburgh’s main cable providers when the channel launches on Aug. 22.

John Swofford met with several reporters on Monday at the league’s headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina for an on-the-record conversation, as part of an annual regional meeting for the Associated Press Sports Editors.

When asked by Pittsburgh Sports Now if Comcast customers will be able to find the ACC Network on their dial when the channel launches, Swofford said, “I can’t answer that yet.”

The commissioner cited some ongoing negotiations that ESPN and Disney are working through regarding distribution. Swofford did mention negotiations with Spectrum and AT&T, but didn’t provide many details. He was even more tight-lipped regarding Comcast.

“We don’t think we could be in any better shape for that than we are right now. I would say everything is on schedule,” Swofford said. “You’ll be able to get the network one way or another just about anywhere. … Mickey Mouse carries a lot of weight.”

In March, ESPN announced it had signed distribution deals with DirecTV, Verizon FiOS, Hulu, Playstation Vue and other smaller cable and streaming services.

“The linear distributors, it’s set up right now on when their deal is over with Disney, with ESPN, those are the ones where ESPN has been concentrating at this point and time,” Swofford said. “All of those will have the opportunity to come on board before the launch.”

The ACC is collaborating with ESPN on the network and its main production home will be at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. The business side of the network’s operations will be stationed in Charlotte, North Carolina. Each member school has also built on-campus studios that cost millions.

On Aug. 29, the network will air its first football game, broadcasting Georgia Tech’s road trip to Clemson. The rest of the football schedule is still being ironed out, but the network aims to broadcast about 40 football games each season.

Swofford said the network is still developing original programming ideas that aren’t live games, and that events like the scholar-athlete luncheon and the ACC Legends event could be broadcast on the network. The re-airing of classic games will also be part of the programming.

The ACC Network will employ more than 100 people, Swofford said, and that the league is eyeing alumni of its member schools for talent.

While talking for about an hour with the gathered journalists, Swofford touched on a number of topics. Here’s what else he had to say.

On the college basketball corruption trials…

“I don’t have a good feeling any time I hear basketball and trials in the same sentence. The sooner the truth of all that can come out, the sooner what needs to be addressed — specifically — can be addressed in terms of what has happened, and we can have a sense of what needs to be different going forward to keep it from happening again. … I think the game is very resilient and it will ultimately be fine.”

On legalized gambling…

“It’s a new world that’s probably coming our way and we’ve got to do our part to maintain the integrity of the game. … Somebody is going to make a lot of money on this. Is it appropriate for the institution or the conference or the NCAA to try to monetize that? To monetize the gambling — off the backs of our athletes in an educational model — which is a pretty fundamental, philosophical question.”

On the transfer portal…

“I think this is about us finding the right balance, where’s the sweet spot where it’s fair to the student athlete.”

On compensating players…

“I start with the fundamental basis that this is an educational basis and should remain so… There are things we can do in a more liberal fashion than we’re currently doing them, I think, but we have to be thoughtful about it.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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