As I'm sure you've heard by now, the ACC and ESPN have come to an agreement to launch a full ACC Network by August 2019. This is great news for the conference, keeping them in the national spotlight as one of the marquee conferences in America for years to come. The new network will make the conference more money, will put the conference on more televisions, and will boost the popularity of the conference as the years go on.
With the launch of the cable network in 2019, it has also been announced that a digital only version of the network will be launched next month through the WatchESPN app. While this isn't a cable network, fans can enjoy ACC games in HD streaming online with various options to stream the network to a television. While this is great news to cable subscribers, this isn't a good sign for the growing number of those looking to cut the cord.
The market for cable viewing is shrinking. With content everywhere online, fewer and fewer people see cable as a necessity anymore. For big sports fans, the ability to watch live sporting events is the main (if not the only) reason to keep paying a cable bill each month.
Yes, millions of cord cutters share passwords with cable subscribers to enable the WatchESPN app (along with others) to get your sports fix for free. But with a federal court ruling earlier this month that password sharing is a violation of federal law, how long will this be an option? Sure, the courts can't prosecute everyone, but how long will multiple users be able to login to one account to use it's services?
I was hoping the ACC Network would be a pioneer in the digital world. I had thought with the direction of streaming and digital rights we would see standalone networks that were subscription based versus being owned by a network. Rather than having to have a cable package that requires ESPN in order to watch the ACC Network, I wanted to subscribe to a network owned by the conference itself that can be streamed right from my Roku to my television for a monthly or seasonal fee. Sporting leagues and networks breaking away from exclusive cable rights could lead to a day where we only pay for the channels we want to watch.
This, I believe, is the only negative of ESPN owning the ACC Network. And while ESPN may some day offer it's own standalone, subscription-based digital package, money in the cable industry may prevent that from happening anytime soon.