CHARLOTTE — If there was any doubt about what this year’s ACC Kickoff was all about, the mosaic of televisions and giant ACC Network logo greeting entrants on the second floor of the Westin told the story.
In the space previously occupied by mannequins in the jerseys and helmets of each team, instead stood the shrine to the league’s long road through realignment and exploding revenues in college athleticss, as the ACC launches its own television channel in 36 days.
Even Commissioner John Swofford briefly yielded the floor to the network, bringing ACC Network and ESPN executives to the stage to offer details regarding programming and the personalities fans can expect to see when it goes on the air at 7 p.m. on Aug. 22.
While previous conversations at Kickoff have focused on the future, this one allowed for some reflected on the past. At long last, the work is done.
All that’s left is ensuring the network ends up in the homes inside that footprint that the league worked — sometimes through discomfort — to build by adding Boston College, Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and saying farewell to founding member Maryland.
“Critical milestones have been multiple expansions, as you're well aware, to strengthen our conference competitively and expand our geographic footprint, which now gives us the largest population and most television sets of any conference at our level,” Swofford said.
According to David Glenn of the Athletic, the ACC Network is on track, reporting this week that current distribution deals will provide the channel for about 20 million subscribers through deals with Altice. DirecTV, Hulu, Playstation Vue, Verizon. Meanwhile, Charter, Comcast and and Dish haven’t yet signed on — a trio representing 47 million subscribers.
According to Glenn’s sources, he said, the expectation is that the ACC Network will have between 30-50 million subscribers at launch. In comparison, the SEC Network is estimated to have over 70 million subscriber and the Big Ten around 60 million, while the Pac-12 is at just 19 million.
At this point, Swofford isn’t worried about whether some of the larger carriers will choose to make a deal with Disney to bring on the network.
“I think as you get toward launch, the way distribution works, a lot of those deals happen at the midnight hour, so to speak,” he said.
To that end, the ACC is coming out of the gate with a strong lineup to help put pressure on those providers. With a Clemson-Georgia Tech football game, a Duke basketball documentary, a Bowden Family documentary and a series that follows Louisville football in the opening week, Swofford thinks fans will see the network as must-see TV.
“I think our fan bases will respond very, very negatively if they're not able to get this,” he said. “I think they will show that. I would encourage them to show that, short of burning down any houses. We wouldn't want them to do that.”
At one point, Swofford even pointed out just how much talk of the network was dominating the day.
“I know we haven't touched on some of the things we normally touch on in this forum as it relates to the upcoming football season, as well,” he said. “You'll have plenty of opportunity to do that with our outstanding coaches that are here with us, as well as the players that are here with us.”
The majority of those questions, of course, focused on the network before eventually turning to the ACC Championship Game’s continued run in Charlotte and the changing landscape of legalized gambling.
Naturally, that led to a question about how the ACC Network would approach gambling.
Today was about the network. We’ll worry about the football on Aug. 29, when that first kickoff arrives, live on ACC Network.
It's not every day you get to launch a multi-million dollar revenue stream to help solidify the conference's standing for decades to come.
“We wanted to focus on what is a truly historic milestone for the league,” he said.