Disney and Charter have struck a new carriage deal a week before the launch of ESPN’s ACC Network, an important effort to expand its college sports portfolio at a sensitive time for the pay-TV ecosystem.
The agreement encompasses Disney’s streaming services including Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+, which will launch November 12. Charter’s Spectrum TV cable systems also will offer the ACC Network when it launches on August 22 as another season of increasingly high-rated college football games gets under way. Pay-TV operators, already showing resistance to programmers’ push for higher carriage fees, have been fretting about the ACC as yet another costly sports network in a climate of cord-shaving and platform shifting.
Piracy merited a special mention in the announcement of the deal. The two companies said they will work together to “implement business rules and techniques to address such issues as unauthorized access and password sharing.”
The long list of networks included in the agreement includes some that joined the fold when the 21st Century Fox acquisition closed in March. The roster includes ABC, Disney Channel, Freeform, ESPN, the SEC Network, FX and National Geographic.
“This agreement will allow Spectrum to continue delivering to its customers popular Disney content, makes possible future distribution by Spectrum of Disney streaming services, and will begin an important collaborative effort to address the significant issue of piracy mitigation,” said Tom Montemagno, Charter’s EVP Programming Acquisition.
Sean Breen, SVP of Disney Media Distribution, said the deal “allows us to continue serving Spectrum TV customers with the full value of the Walt Disney Television and ESPN networks, including the newly acquired FX and Nat Geo networks.”
Fans of the ACC, whose teams include Duke, Clemson and the University of Miami, “can also rest assured that they will be able to watch their favorite teams on Spectrum, one of the largest distributors across the ACC footprint,” Breen added.
The ACC Network is owned and operated by ESPN. Along with its digital platform, ACC Network Extra, it will feature more than 1,350 ACC events in its first year across several sports. ESPN has been televising ACC content since 1979 and has exclusive rights to every conference-controlled game across all sports and championships.