CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On ACC football media day in July, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips was hopeful that Comcast (Xfinity) cable would add the ACC Network to its channel lineup before the college football season began.
But that did not happen. ESPN has still not been able to strike a deal to get the ESPN-owned ACC Network on Comcast, which is the only major cable or satellite company that is not carrying the two-year-old channel.
Phillips has not given up hope.
“We’re down to Comcast, and I am really optimistic about where that’s going,” Phillips said Tuesday during a news conference at ACC men’s basketball media day. “We’re getting really close.”
What does “really close” mean? Before the start of the basketball season? During the basketball season?
“I don’t know because it’s got a life of its own. The timing is just so unpredictable, you just don’t know,” Phillips said after his news conference. “What I do know is the importance. People are frustrated, and I understand.”
Comcast cable has customers in Botetourt, Montgomery, Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Henry, Pulaski, Patrick, Smyth, Rockbridge and Wythe counties, as well as in Salem, Martinsville, Buena Vista, Galax and Lexington.
The ACC Network debuted in the summer of 2019.
Comcast is negotiating a new overall deal to carry all Disney-owned channels, such as the ACC Network, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and the Disney Channel. Disney/ESPN wants Comcast to add the ACC Network as part of a new overall deal.
Phillips was optimistic in July that Comcast would add the ACC Network before the start of the current football season. What happened?
“These deals are never that easy. They’re just not,” Phillips said. “Comcast knows the importance of the ACC Network … to Disney and ESPN. And we also understand Comcast has some things they’re trying to work through. But it’s very amicable.
“And we are farther along, I would say, then we were in July. So there has been progress, most definitely. And again, optimistic about getting this thing done.
“I don’t think we’ve gone backwards. … We’re getting closer.”
The old, 10-year-old overall deal between Comcast and Disney/ESPN was due to expire last month but has been extended so it can remain in effect while the negotiations for a new deal continue, according to a source familiar with the situation. That source said that with the TV landscape having changed so much in the last 10 years — such as the rise of streaming services providing new competition to cable companies — negotiations for a new deal have been complicated.
“We have locked arms with Disney and ESPN and the network … in order to push forward,” Phillips said. “But it’s got to be something that Comcast feels good about and our group feels good about.”
The ACC has been trying to put pressure on Comcast by putting attractive games on the ACC Network, such as last weekend’s Notre Dame-Virginia Tech football game. That scheduling tactic will continue.
The ACC Network is carried by Cox cable, Shentel cable, Citizens cable, Suddenlink cable, the Dish Network satellite service, the DirecTV satellite service, Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV, among others.