Coburn: ESPN/ACC have hit a 'brick wall' in negotiations with Comcast
It has been nearly one month since the Atlantic Coast Conference's new linear television channel went live, and Florida State athletics director David Coburn said on Wednesday that he's no more optimistic that cable giant Comcast will carry it any time soon.
Speaking at a regularly scheduled meeting of the FSU Athletics Board, Coburn said there have been a number of other positive developments with the ACC Network, however:
* It is currently in the homes of more than 40 million subscribers, which is more than the conference and ESPN originally projected for this point;
* There are indications that DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse will soon be reaching new agreements to carry the channel;
* And the network has already aired several FSU soccer and volleyball games, which otherwise would not have appeared on a linear channel.
"We're very pleased," Coburn said.
But when it comes to Comcast, which is the major cable provider in Tallahassee and other parts of the state and nation, Coburn said the outlook appears bleak for the foreseeable future.
He said the negotiations are essentially at a "brick wall" because Comcast's current contract with ESPN and parent company Disney doesn't expire for another two years. At that point, Disney could threaten to pull its other properties off of Comcast if the provider doesn't carry the channel.
Until then, he said, they can't make Comcast come to the negotiation table.
"The only real leverage is people dropping," Coburn said.
Florida State's last two games -- against ULM and Virginia -- were both featured on the network, which meant large portions of the fan base had to figure out alternate ways to watch the game -- either by switching to a satellite or streaming service, or by watching at a sports bar or restaurant.
FSU fans who are Comcast subscribers will get a one-week reprieve this week as the Seminoles and Louisville will square off on ESPN at 3:30 p.m. One week later, however, FSU will be back on the conference's new channel, facing off against North Carolina State.
Here are some other notes from Wednesday's athletics board meeting:
*** Coburn gave updates on several FSU sports programs and said he believes the Seminoles are making progress in football, despite the current 1-2 record. He specifically mentioned the addition of new senior defensive analyst Jim Leavitt.
"I think we're getting better," Coburn said. "I think the Leavitt hire will help."
*** FSU senior associate athletics director Jim Curry shared some positive marks for the football team. He said the Seminoles are currently ranked No. 32 in the Sagarin computer rankings and boast the toughest strength of schedule for any of the top 35 teams in that poll. ... James Blackman is one of five quarterbacks in the country who have thrown at least three touchdowns in the first three games of this season. The others are Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts, Texas' Sam Ehlinger and Washington State's Anthony Gordon. "So a good list to be on for James Blackman," Curry said. ... FSU has scored at least 24 points in each of the first three games. That's only the fifth time in the last 20 years that FSU has done that. The last time the Seminoles did it was the 2013 national championship season.
*** FSU Deputy A.D. Cindy Hartmann shared that the Seminoles' softball stadium soon will have a covered structure with large fans overhead to keep supporters cooler during home games this season. She said head coach Lonni Alameda was so determined to make it happen that she spearheaded the $1.6 million fundraising effort. The structure will be in place when next season begins in February, Hartmann said, as they already have raised $1.53 million.
*** Assistant athletics director Jason Dennard said the ACC Network is working on a feature on Osceola and Renegade.