ESPN and the ACC have wrapped up one of their big distribution battles when it comes to the upcoming launch of the ACC Network, but it’s not the one that many Pitt fans have been waiting for.
ESPN parent Disney announced on Wednesday that it had reached a new carriage agreement with Charter Communications, which runs the Spectrum cable brand.
Spectrum is the second-largest traditional cable company in the country, with over 15 million subscribers, with many over in the ACC stronghold of North Carolina, and has been seen as a key partner in the network’s potential success.
“Our new agreement with Charter allows us to continue serving Spectrum TV customers with the full value of the Walt Disney Television and ESPN networks, including the newly acquired FX and Nat Geo networks,” Disney vice president Sean Breen said. “ACC fans can also rest assured that they will be able to watch their favorite teams on Spectrum, one of the largest distributors across the ACC footprint, when ACC Network launches next week.”
ESPN will operate ACC Network and owns it in partnership with the league. The new network is set for an Aug. 22 launch, with Spectrum joining Altice, DirecTV, Hulu Live, PlayStation Vue, Verizon FiOS and YouTube TV.
But that’s not helping many in the Greater Pittsburgh area that rely on Comcast cable. The nation’s largest cable company and ESPN have not moved forward on negotiations to bring the ACC Network to over 20 million more subscribers. Comcast also has important strongholds in ACC markets for Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia
Other major national distributors like AT&T U-Verse, Cox Cable and Dish Network also have not reached agreements to carry the channel at launch.
Locally relevant Armstrong Cable has an offer on the table through its small-cable NCTC collective, but has not made an announcement on whether they will or will not opt into the deal.
Carriage negotiations frequently come down to the 11th hour, with a recent example of CBS and DirecTV squaring off in advance of the NFL season.
But Pitt’s season-opening game against Virginia on Aug. 31 is scheduled to be televised on the network, making the negotiations tense for fans and bar owners that want to make sure they’ll get the Panthers on their TVs.