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The ACC Network Is Coming. So How’s That Going To Work Out?

Too early to tell for sure.

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Texas Rangers v. New York Yankees
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 25: John Swofford, ACC Commissioner is seen during a press conference to announce the New Era Pinstripe Bowl’s multi-year partnership with the Atlantic Coast Conference at Yankee Stadium on June 25, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Photo by Jason Szenes/Getty Images

The ACC has had several major transitions over the years. First was integration. Then schools started coming and going. South Carolina left in 1971. Then Georgia Tech and later Florida State came in. Later expansion saw Virginia Tech, BC, Miami join followed by Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame. Then Maryland left and Louisville took their spot.

Those were all really big changes. The ACC Network could be as big as any of them - but we don’t know yet how it will work out.

Still there’s a sense of excitement around the network, which will debut next year and the impact it could have.

There are some interesting comments in this WRAL piece including this quote by Debbie Yow - “The single most important thing for the future of this athletic program financially is the success of the ACC Network, without question. We have maxed out on our multimedia rights deal. We have maxed out on our apparel deal. We have maxed out on our tickets sales in football, we’re close to that in basketball. All the financial resources that are available for us to go get, we’ve done really well in. We’ve kind of hit the wall. ... We have to have it just like the SEC and the Big Ten did” - and this from Commissioner John Swofford - “The fortunate thing for us is our partner. Because not only in terms of their being the leader in sports television and production, talent and so forth — it’s Disney, and it’s ESPN, and it’s ESPN2, and it’s ESPNU and it’s ESPN News. But it’s all those Disney channels. And that’s powerful in the marketplace.”

Obviously the network will be mostly an ESPN sort of thing but Swofford is right - Disney has a staggering amount of television properties. Take a look. And there’s a lot more beyond television.

ACC sports can’t compete with the Avengers or Lucasfilm, but the reach of Disney is incredible and, needless to say, worldwide.

And we do think that Yow is wrong about one thing and that’s multimedia. As the traditional cable market continues to contract, video is increasingly spilling over to the Internet. We’ve seen it move already from computers to TVs and phones and become something you can take anywhere and watch anytime. The revolution isn’t done yet though.

Apple is developing AR glasses and that could move the display from your pocket to your face. 5G networks are coming too. That’s going to open a firehose of data which can soon be delivered straight to your eyeballs.

There will be plenty of opportunities to make money. The bigger question is this: with that much information floating around, and with some of it coming from still unknown but potentially revolutionary sources and technologies, how do you keep people’s attention for the duration of a game? Just consider the sudden rise of Fort Night.

Because watching a game is pretty passive but when you have thousands of options to choose from, with basically zero latency, and with many of those options interactive, keeping people’s attention is going to take some work.

So in other words, if you want to gussy up your 20th century product to compete with 21st century rivals, you’re probably going to need some help. And when it comes to those types of resources, Disney either has them or can buy them - assuming it’s worth the effort.

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