CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Talks about the ACC Network have been ongoing for three years, but now there’s just a little more than a month left until the highly-anticipated 24/7 channel launches on Aug. 22.
On Wednesday at the ACC Kickoff – the league’s branded term for its football media days – at the Westin hotel in Charlotte, staffing and programming were unveiled for the new network. Fans learned whose faces they would see the most, and what kind of shows the network would air when live sports aren’t happening.
While there was much excitement about that, feelings of anxiety crept in when ACC commissioner John Swofford was asked about the network’s distribution to cable providers. Swofford was specifically asked about the league’s negotiations with Comcast, which is a major cable provider in Pittsburgh, Miami, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and other large media markets.
He didn’t exactly answer the question directly.
“You’ll be able to get the ACC Network anywhere in the nation one way or another, whether it’s DIRECTV, whether it’s Hulu that are already on-board. People will have an opportunity to change carriers if they’re not happy with their current one who is not carrying the ACC Network,” Swofford said. “Contact your carrier if they’re not carrying it and demand that you want it. It’s a consumer sort of thing. Be passionate when you do it.
“The questions about distribution really should be answered by ESPN. What I will tell you is that we’re very confident that ESPN are the best in the world when it comes to distribution.”
The ACC Network has struck deals for distribution with Altice, DIRECTV, Google Fiber, Hulu, Optimum, PlayStation Vue, Suddenlink, TVision and Verizon Fios. But, in addition to Comcast, major cable providers such as Armstrong, Cox, Spectrum, Dish Network and AT&T U-Verse still don’t have an agreement with the ACC Network.
“I think our fan bases will respond very, very negatively (if the ACC Network is unavailable from their provider),” Swofford said. “I think this is must-see TV, quite frankly.”
Swofford and the league announced original programming for the network on Wednesday and named some of its front-facing talent.
When the network launches on Aug. 22, “All-ACC” will debut at 7 p.m. The flagship studio show – hosted by Kelsey Riggs, Jordan Cornette and Dalen Cuff – will cover all 27 sports that the ACC sponsors. It will be followed by the premier of the documentary, “The Class that Saved Coach K” about Mike Krzyzewski’s 1982 recruiting class at Duke that included Jay Bilas and Johnny Dawkins.
“Live events will be the backbone,” said ESPN producer Amy Rosenfeld. “But storytelling will be a major tent-pole.”
The next day will mark the debut of “Packer and Durham,” a daily morning talk show featuring Mark Packer and Wes Durham. Durham will also be part of the network’s rotating crews for live college football broadcasts. One crew will feature him as the play-by-play man, former Georgia Tech running back Roddy Jones as the analyst and former Louisville center Eric Wood as the sideline reporter. The other crews will be Dave O’Brien, Tim Hasselbeck and Katie George, and then Chris Cotter, Mark Herzlich and Riggs. The ACC Network will broadcast its first football game on Aug. 29 when Clemson hosts Georgia Tech.
“We feel very lucky to have assembled such a smart, fun, thoughtful group to cover ACC football both in the studio and announce booth on ACCN,” Rosenfeld said. “ACC schools are well represented on our team.”
Other special programming will include a 30-minute special recapping Clemson’s run to the national championship in 2019, featuring exclusive footage from their College Football Playoff run. An all-access, behind the scenes show focused on Louisville and first-year head coach Scott Satterfield will air on Sept. 1. The ACC Network is also producing a documentary on legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden.
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) July 17, 2019
Weekly shows will include “ACC Traditions,” a program focused on cultures at each member school, such as “Krzyzewskiville” at Duke. For two hours on Friday evenings and for one hour on Saturdays, the ACC Network will air a weekly college football preview show called “The Huddle.” Hosting it is Jac Collinsworth – the son of NBC’s Cris Collinsworth – and will feature Jon Beason, Eric Mac Lain, EJ Manuel and former Miami coach Mark Richt as analysts.
“I think what the league wants and what the ACC Network wants is opinions,” Richt said. “I don’t think I’ll have any problem saying, I don’t agree with this or I don’t agree with that. I’m not looking to beat anybody up, but I’ll say what I believe and do it in a respectful way.
“I like the idea of (the ACC Network). I’m excited about the opportunity. I love the game and I love the league. Hopefully I’ll be able to give some insight to people that, maybe, they didn’t think of before.”
No Pitt-specific programming was teased on Wednesday.
The production hub for the network will be on the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut, while its business offices will be headquartered in Charlotte. Each school will have a studio on-campus.
For folks whose cable providers still haven’t reached a deal with the ACC Network, there’s still some hope. Often with a new network, some deals get done at the very last minute.
“As you get toward launch, as you get toward distribution,” Swofford said. “A lot of those deals happen at the midnight hour, so to speak.”