The Atlantic Coast Conference’s new television network was supposed to create more exposure for the league’s athletic programs.
Instead, most of South Florida and the nation have been left in the dark.
Barring a last minute agreement between ESPN and South Florida’s two biggest cable operators, most of South Florida will be unable to watch either of the Hurricanes’ next two games on television — Saturday at North Carolina and Sept. 14 at home against Bethune Cookman.
ESPN, which distributes and operates ACC Network, has been unable to strike carriage agreements with Comcast/Xfinity and AT&T Uverse, the primary cable distributors in South Florida. ESPN spokeswoman Keri Potts said negotiations are ongoing with both.
Comcast spokesman John Demming declined to say anything on the matter beyond the obvious: “We don’t have an agreement.”
An executive with one of those two cable companies, who asked not to be quoted because he did not want to inflame the situation, said ESPN is asking for “a significant amount of money” from cable operators to carry the new channel - more than what some cable operators believe is justified.
That executive said his company asked ESPN to place ACC Network on a sports tier — requiring extra payment from only viewers that want the channel — but ESPN refused.
That executive also pointed out that most of the games on ACC Network were either available on free television last season or through ESPN plus, a video streaming subscription service.
Potts, responding to all of that, said: “We’ve successfully completed numerous distribution agreements based upon market rates. I remind you that we have multiple national providers distributing ACCN. All residents across Florida have a minimum of five separate options to subscribe to ACCN (DirecTV, DISH, YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV and Sony Playstation Vue).”
Google Fiber, Optimum and Fios also have deals with ACC Network.
ACC Network launched Aug. 22 with availability in about 37 million of the nation’s 120 million TV households. That’s comparable to the initial penetration of several conference networks in previous launches, but the problem is that several ACC hubs, including South Florida and Atlanta, have hundreds of thousands of homes without access to the channel.
And also keep this in mind: You will be unable to watch ACC Network games through Watch ESPN or on a computer or handheld device unless your TV service has a deal for ACC Network, per an ESPN spokesperson.
UM athletic director Blake James (through Twitter) and coach Manny Diaz (through a video message) have encouraged people to contact their cable operators to implore them to add ACC Network.
To this point, viewer pressure hasn’t worked.
James, asked if he’s frustrated about ACC Network not being available in more homes locally, said: “The immediate and long term benefits of the ACC Network are significant to the University of Miami. Similar to the launch of other networks, some providers are late to the game and that’s the case here in South Florida.
“With that said, and unlike in previous network launches, there are numerous national providers that carry ACCN. Fans have the ability to switch to DirectTV, Dish, YouTube TV, Hulu Plus or PlayStation Vue immediately to access not only football and basketball but all of our sports and programming that ACCN features. At the end of the day, all providers have the ability to carry ACCN and it’s unfortunate that some, especially Comcast and AT&T U-verse here in South Florida, have not yet signed up to provide ACCN to its customers.”
ACC commissioner John Swofford also recently put the onus on fans to urge their cable operators to add the channel.
“Contact your carrier if they’re not carrying it and demand that you want it,’’ Swofford said. “It’s a consumer sort of thing. Be passionate when you do it.’’
ACC Network is expected to carry about 40 games this season, including the two UM games, FSU-Virginia Sept. 14 and Duke-Notre Dame Nov. 9.
The channel also will carry UM’s ACC men’s basketball opener Nov. 5 against Louisville and hundreds of other live events.
Former Marlins announcer Dave O’Brien and NFL studio analyst Tim Hasselbeck will call the UM-UNC game for ACC Network.
UM redshirt sophomore Evidence Njoku, who has appeared in only one game and caught one pass in two-plus seasons at Miami, announced he has switched from receiver to tight end.
He hopes to follow in the footsteps of brother David Njoku, a standout tight end at UM who was drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns.