As football kicks off on ACC Network, FSU thinks long-term investment will pay off

The ACC Network has been a welcome addition to the living rooms and man caves across the east coast.

Studio shows have focused on Miami vs. Florida as well as the Week 1 games. A morning show with Wes Durham and Mark Packer from 7-10 a.m. weekdays features interviews with dozens of coaches. And the network’s first live game broadcast came on Sunday as the Florida State soccer team defeated Wisconsin 1-0 in overtime.

The debut has been successful, albeit with an asterisk. It’s not clear how many millions of households get the ACC Network at launch. The number is projected to be north of 35 millions when factoring in the combined audience of DirecTV and Charter-Spectrum as well as streaming services like Hulu Live, PlayStationVue and YouTube TV.

Dish appears to have made a “handshake deal” on Thursday night to carry the ACC Network.

By comparison the Pac-12 Network, which launched in 2012, still isn’t in nearly as many homes because it’s not on Comcast or DirecTV. The SEC Network has achieved widespread distribution as it’s projected to be available in about 90 million homes.

But many ACC fans are in the dark, especially those in Florida who have Comcast and Cox as providers.

The first full weekend of games will bring anticipation but also questions for those who may not be able to watch their favorite ACC team. And the ACC Network will exclusively broadcast prominent football matchups such as Clemson’s season opener on Thursday at 8 p.m., at home against Georgia Tech, as well as a Saturday triple header featuring East Carolina at NC State, Virginia Tech at Boston College and Virginia at Pittsburgh.

FSU and other ACC schools encouraged their fans to call, email or contact their providers on social media ahead of the Aug. 22 launch of the channel. But it’s likely that a large group of fans weren’t concerned about their ability to watch the ACC Network until the first weekend of college football.

Now, it’s here. Cutting the cord and going with a streaming service is an option available to any household that has a quality high-speed Internet connection. But some fans aren’t comfortable with that solution.

“I think there’s some anxiety amongst a certain generation of fans about going to some of those online services,” FSU athletics director David Coburn told the Osceola. “They’re a little scared of it. It’s not that complicated. But I understand that. I have a mother who I can promise you wouldn’t be able to deal with Hulu.”

Coburn said he has conservatively allocated $3 million in additional revenue from the ACC Network toward FSU’s 2019-20 athletics budget. If Comcast makes a deal – and the Dish agreement goes through – to carry the channel that would increase how much FSU will receive, although it’s a number that’s difficult to project.

FSU and all of the ACC’s schools have built the infrastructure to support the launch of the channel through various improvements – new control rooms, production equipment and wiring inside the Moore Athletic Center that will allow FSU to produce two games on-site at the same time.

“I think over the last three years we’re probably between $5 million and $6 million,” Coburn said. “Just ratcheting up.”

The investment will pay dividends over the long haul, Coburn said. FSU has had back-to-back seasons where its athletics program has made top-10 finishes in the Director’s Cup, results that are underscored by national championships by softball and soccer in 2018. 

While the ACC Network will focus on football and basketball in the coming months, it’s a showcase for all of the league’s sports as well as a recruiting opportunity.

“Our Olympic sports are outstanding,” Coburn said. “They will get more exposure than perhaps some other schools will.”

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