CLEMSON — ACC Commissioner John Swofford on July 17 said the timing of Clemson winning two of the last three national championships "couldn't be better," from a business perspective amid the start of the ACC Network.
The conference hopes for the subscription-television network, which launched Aug. 22 and is owned by ESPN, to be a financial boon and help close the revenue gap on the SEC and Big Ten, both of which already have networks.
But distribution remains an issue. Several national providers, including Spectrum, DIRECTV, Hulu Live TV and YoutubeTV, have signed on to include the ACC Network. But many others — including Comcast Xfinity, Dish Network and AT&T — still haven't, meaning the audience for No. 1 Clemson's home game against Georgia Tech on Aug. 29 could be significantly smaller than what might be expected for a Thursday night college football season opener featuring the defending national champions.
Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich on July 15 said distribution agreements could come down to "the last minute."
"As athletic directors and presidents, we've been warned that this is bare-knuckle combat, when you get down to the distributors," Radakovich said. "ESPN is a partner on this venture, so they have great incentive to move forward and get this done, much like the Atlantic Coast Conference does."
Clemson's games against Texas A&M on Sept. 7 and at Syracuse on Sept. 14 are both scheduled to air on ABC, but it's unclear where the rest of the team's games this season will be broadcast.
It's possible more games get picked up by the ACC Network. Radakovich urged Clemson fans to call their providers and "demand" the ACC Network.
"We want to do our part to get it out to everybody within the Clemson family," he said.
Swofford spoke glowingly of the network during ACC Media Days in July. He said it will provide "unprecedented exposure" for women's athletics, create educational and real-world experience for involved students, and increase revenue sharing for affiliated universities, which continue to pay increasing salaries to coaches — Clemson's Dabo Swinney signed a 10-year, $93 million contract extension this past spring.
It'll be more difficult to reap those rewards without adequate proper distribution agreements, of course. Swofford echoed Radakovich's sentiment, urging fans to pick up the slack and demand the network from their providers.
"Fan bases, their voices need to be heard," Swofford said. "I think this is must-see television, quite frankly. It's not just watching a game. It's watching the Atlantic Coast Conference in every sport, in every way, from the inside out and from the outside in."