Let’s just say ESPN will start finding out real soon.
ACC Network’s first test comes next summer when ESPN starts negotiating a new affiliate deal with Altice, a negotiation that promises to be a tough sell since the cable operator has systems near New York City, which is a long way from ACC member Syracuse and not really part of the conference’s footprint. One of the few cable operators that does not carry SEC Network, Altice has been public about its desire to cut costs.
ESPN could cut individual ACC Network deals, but most programmers and distributors like to wait until their big affiliate deals expire — and ESPN’s biggest ones aren’t up until several years after ACC Network’s planned 2019 launch. ESPN’s affiliate deals with Comcast and Charter expire in 2021; ESPN’s Dish Network deal runs until 2022.
Sources expect ESPN to price the ACC Network similar to SEC Network, which at launch was around $1.30 per subscriber per month in-market and around 25 cents per subscriber per month out-of-market.
Ourand thinks the problem for the network is that the sports programming market has changed in the last couple of years since the SEC signed its deal. Perhaps the more relevant issue is whether the product itself is as attractive to its potential viewing audience.