TV Answer Man, I read an article that the ACC Network executive thinks he will get a deal for his channel on Comcast. Is that correct? Will it happen this month? — Jim, Boston. 

Jim, I don’t expect a deal this month, but there could be hope an agreement is done later this year. I say could be hope because the article you are referring to may be inflating what ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips recently had to say on the subject.

Let me explain.

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The ACC Network, which is owned by ESPN (Disney), launched in August 2019 and is dedicated to offering live sporting events and other programming involving teams of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). That includes such colleges as North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Georgia Tech, University of Miami, Syracuse and, yes, Boston College in your area.

While several pay TV providers such as DIRECTV and Dish offer the ACC Network, Comcast has never carried the channel due to a carriage dispute with ESPN.

However, last Friday, The Richmond Times-Dispatch published a lengthy story on ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips who assumed the top job late last year. Buried deep in the article is a paragraph that says:

“Phillips told his audiences in Blacksburg and Charlottesville that he believes ESPN/Disney, the conference’s partner in the ACC Network, likely will strike a carriage agreement by September with cable behemoth Xfinity/Comcast.”

Sports Illustrated picked up the quote and ran its own story with this headline:

“Jim Phillips Eludes To Potential ACC Network Start Date on Comcast. Relief on the way? It certainly sounds like it for ACC fans.”

The SI article suggests a settlement is near based on the Times-Dispatch blurb.

However, before you get too excited, Comcast’s current carriage agreement with ESPN is not expected to expire until January 2022, four months after Phillips says a deal will ‘likely’ be reached. It’s unlikely that Comcast would negotiate a separate agreement with ESPN for the ACC Network prior to engaging in more discussions for a larger agreement for all of ESPN’s channels, as well as the Disney and ABC channels. (Disney owns ESPN and ABC.) That’s usually not how these things work. Pay TV operators like to settle all open questions in the same negotiation.

Now it’s possible that Comcast and ESPN (and Disney) will begin talks earlier than January 2022, like in September, let’s say. That could be what Phillips is referring to. But there’s no pressure for Comcast now to strike a new deal with Disney/ESPN because its current agreement still has seven months to go.

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Finally, I would note that chances are good that Comcast will add the ACC Network when it does negotiate a new agreement with ESPN/Disney. But I don’t expect that to happen until late this year.

Jim, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann