ESPN's mass layoffs and declining subscriber base has the Worldwide Leader scrambling. They are trying to prove to Disney and Wall Street that they will continue to grow and pump out money. But the changing market place and their massive rights commitments have some partners wondering. One of the commitments under the microscope is ESPN's future ACC Network. Considering it hasn't even launched yet, it would seem to be vulnerable. But ESPN assured the ACC that the network is still coming.
This is one of those times where I am not really worried about BC or the ACC. If anything, partnerships like this are much safer to ESPN than their rights deals with the NBA or NFL. First the ACC is locked into a long, long deal with ESPN. While the startup costs for the network are big, there is huge upside for ESPN in the second decade of the deal. Most of the league deals are much shorter and promise no ROI. Second, the ACC deal is still cheaper content than the NFL or NBA. It might not drive the same eyeballs, but the advertising demographics remain good and college football gets better ratings than professional basketball.
Now the initial model for conference networks was bilking cable subscribers. Clearly that aspect of the deal is looking less viable. Grandma in North Carolina doesn't want to pay a premium to watch BC-Syracuse in football. But even if the subscriber base is not as lucractive, ESPN and the ACC still have avenues to make money off of ad revenue and in turning the ACC Network into some sort of tier or subscription. I know most BC fans would pay six or seven dollars a month for the service.
As for cord cutting, ESPN remains a good technology partner. The ACC Network is using ESPN's infrastructure so it will be available on most devices.
But even if all this goes to pot and there is no network, the ACC will get a huge buyout. If the buyout remains the worst case scenario, that is not a bad thing. The ACC can take the ESPN's money and find a new TV partner.