ACC commissioner ‘hopeful’ for Comcast to pick up ACC Network

Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Jim Phillips listens to a question during a press conference at the NCAA college football ACC media days in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Caption
Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Jim Phillips listens to a question during a press conference at the NCAA college football ACC media days in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Credit: Nell Redmond

Credit: Nell Redmond

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – ACC commissioner Jim Phillips has heard plenty from member schools about the demand from fans for Comcast Xfinity and other cable providers to pick up ACC Network. He is hopeful that their wishes could be met in the next several months.

“We’re hopeful to come to an agreement with these cable providers that aren’t carrying the network, and that’s anytime between now through the end of the year,” Phillips said in a Wednesday interview with the AJC at the ACC Kickoff media event.

Georgia Tech fans have been vociferous in their complaints about Comcast not carrying ACC Network, which launched in August 2019. The Yellow Jackets played four football games on the network in 2019 and two in 2020 in addition to numerous basketball games. The Sept. 4 season opener against Northern Illinois also will be on the network.

Comcast’s contract with Disney – which owns ESPN, of which ACC Network is part – expires at the end of 2021. It is widely expected that Comcast will pick up the network with its new deal with Disney.

“Obviously, it’s heightened because of the football season, but I really like our plan,” Phillips said. “ESPN has been fantastic. They have also said it’s a priority for them, so I think it’s a good strategy to address that.”

Phillips acknowledged the frustration of fans who subscribe to Comcast and other providers that haven’t picked up ACC Network.

“We want our consumers and our fans to be able to access the network,” Phillips said.

Phillips did not have an update about potential agreements for additional carriers and streaming services to pick up the regional sports networks that carry ACC games, such as Bally Sports South and Bally Sports Southeast in Atlanta. The networks have been dropped by multiple streaming services, such as YouTube TV and Hulu, that carry ACC Network and have been presented to fans by the conference as alternatives to Comcast.

Tech played three football games on regional sports networks last season, and its second game this year, against Kennesaw State on Sept. 11, will be broadcast on them.

Regarding Comcast, there is a clear financial benefit for the ACC to have one of the largest cable providers in the country pick up its network. Such a deal would help the ACC and its member schools close the financial gap on the SEC and Big Ten. In the 2019-20 financial year, the ACC’s 14 full-time members received an average of $32.4 million, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a record for the conference but also well behind the SEC’s per-school distribution of $45.5 million.

A healthy revenue increase would be particularly timely now, as schools are coming off years in which their budgets were hit hard by the attendance caps necessitated by COVID-19 and the additional costs necessary to safely administer practices, games and travel. Tech, for instance, instituted furloughs across the department and made other budget cuts as ticket revenues dropped from $11.3 million in 2019-20 to $3.8 million in 2020-21.

“That’s why I would just say to you, this is as critical of a football season as we’ve had,” Phillips said. “Not just the ACC, but college football in general, because of what we’re all coming off of. And we all understand what it was on our campuses with furloughs and positions not being filled and positions being eliminated and all those things. We’re all going to do everything we can to have a healthy and successful year to have it back to somewhat normal.”