If you live under a rock, I have no idea how you found this dive bar of a blog, but you probably heard that Disney is buying 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion. Yes Dr. Evil, with a capital B. More pertinent to this site’s readership, part of the deal includes all 22 of Fox’s Regional Sports Networks, which is a huge double down on live sports content.
There’s a lot that can be made of this industry-altering move, but in our Syracuse Orange ecosystem, the biggest reason we should care is for the ACC Network and its current buildup. We’ve known since 2016 that Disney will be using Major League Baseball Advanced Media (spinning off a company called BAMTech) to power the back-end of the online content delivery. Known to date as ESPN+, the service should offer a supplement to cable subscribers, and now ESPN has 44 professional sports regional television deals on 22 more cable networks to pull and push content across other mediums.
Iger: "There will be a sharing of product so that we can infuse ESPN national with some more local content" and vice-a-versa. "The result will be that both will be better."— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) December 14, 2017
In the short term, these networks will help boost ESPN’s viewership and Nielsen numbers (expect your local Fox Sports to rebranded soon). But in the long term, ESPN has plenty of options to satisfy the looming ACC Network commitment. Earlier this year, we were told that a linear ACC Network would launch by 2019, giving ESPN yet another collegiate network. These new deals solidify what that network could look like.
ESPN will have some form of ACC Network available for cable subscribers. Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing speculates that ESPNEWS could be rebranded as such to guarantee that the new network has strong subscribers from the start. ESPN’s been making a hard push for their collegiate programming that many believe was topped off with a successful College Gameday in New York City, but I can’t imagine the SEC would be happy with being in the door first and the ACC being larger at the get-go.
Regardless, ESPN will now have a nationwide network to pump out ACC Network programming. There’s nothing stopping ESPN from offering an ACC Network Digital pass, all-inclusive or sport/school specific, available on streaming and mobile devices. Now couple that with an army of regional sports affiliates that can plop a Syracuse-Pitt game on in the major markets of the Midwest and West Coast, as well as the other self-produced content from the ACC Network and it’s affiliates. ESPN now has the power to guarantee the ACC and it’s member schools that they can be on TV in almost every major market in the U.S., and available digitally everywhere else in the world.
For Syracuse, this is nothing short of a win. When the Big East first started, the conference used the power of a startup ESPN to produce their own games to reach the country as one of the first conferences to realize the power of TV. Now almost 40 years later, ESPN and Syracuse are together again, but with the former flexing it’s muscles as the world wide sports content leader and the former as the producer of some of ESPN’s best talent on and off the screens. It’s the best thing ‘Cuse could ask for.
Disclosure: The author was employed by MLB Advanced Media when the Disney + BAMtech deal was announced.