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The ACC Network: questions and answers

ACC and ESPN end long wait, announce creation of a TV channel

ACC commissioner John Swofford announces the partnership with ESPN, the conference’s longtime television rights partner, an ACC channel would debut in 2019. The wait will be shorter for an online component of the channel, which will begin streamin
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ACC commissioner John Swofford announces the partnership with ESPN, the conference’s longtime television rights partner, an ACC channel would debut in 2019. The wait will be shorter for an online component of the channel, which will begin streamin

In case you missed it I wrote a long story, published Sunday, about the ACC Network. It’s about how the idea for the network came to be and all that had to happen for it to become reality – sneaking John Skipper into the ACC spring meetings and beach bike rides included.

You might still have some questions about the network, though. And so here’s an attempt to answer those: An ACC Network frequently asked questions, of sorts.

Let’s get to it …

Q. Why will it take until August 2019 to launch the ACC Network?

A. Simply put: these things take time. There’s not ean easy way to construct a TV network out of thin air, though given ESPN is behind the project it figures that the infrastructure – at least some of it, that is – is in place. If the ACC and ESPN thought the network could be launched sooner it would be.

Dean Jordan, the ACC’s primary outside television consultant, was asked last week why it would take until 2019 to launch the network – especially given that other conferences (the SEC, Big Ten) launched their networks about a year and a half after they were announced.

“Well, there was probably a year and a half of planning before they announced,” Jordan said.

The rest of Jordan’s answer: “There’s certain deals that have to be worked through, both on our side and on ESPN’s side. You’ve got some facility issues, because it’s going to be housed here in Charlotte, where ESPNU and the SEC Network are, and they are currently bursting at the seams there. So there’s that issue. And we want to make sure we do it right.”

Q. Where will the ACC Network be based?

A. Though Jordan sounded pretty sure of it, it’s not quite official yet that the network will be based in Charlotte. Both John Skipper, the ESPN president, and ACC Commissioner John Swofford said last week that the network’s location wasn’t quite decided yet.

That said, it seems certain it will be in Charlotte. ESPN has a hub there that includes the SEC Network and ESPNU. And so it makes sense, from geographic and infrastructure standpoints, that the ACC Network would also be based there.

Q. What about distribution? Who will carry the network and when will those deals be finalized?

A. Let’s let Skipper answer this one: “We will start yesterday and we will complete them sometime in the 24 hours before we flip the switch and launch. And that’s not quite as sarcastic as it sounds.”

Q. How much money do ACC schools stand to make off the ACC Network?

A. The million dollar question. Or, as it were, the $311.8 million question. That’s how much television revenue the SEC generated in the first year of the SEC Network, which launched in August 2014. During the same time, the ACC made about $217.9 million in TV revenue.

The $94 million gap between the two leagues is a big part of why the ACC wanted and needed its own network. Conference leadership believes the ACC Network will help close the financial gap between the ACC and richest of the richest conferences (the SEC and Big Ten).

How much the ACC Network will make, though, is guesswork for now. Swofford said the network “should put us in the upper echelon of the Power 5 conferences, in terms of revenue.” Jordan, who has been in the TV business for a good while, received the same question about the network’s profitability.

“That’s going to depend on how well the network performs,” he said. “So you can’t say specifically. But if the network performs even moderately, it’ll put the ACC in a situation where they’ll be very, very competitive financially with the upper tier in the collegiate industry.”

Q. What will be on the ACC Network, aside from games?

A. Do replays of games count? There will be a lot of games, to start: 40 regular-season football games and more than 150 men’s and women’s basketball games. Beyond that, we can expect the same sort of programming that fills the SEC Network: documentary productions, replays of classic events and no shortage of non-revenue sports coverage, as well.

Q. Who will become the ACC Network’s version of Paul Finebaum?

A. Finebaum is the unofficial voice of the SEC, and his star has risen in recent years given his presence on ESPN. Which raises the question: Will there be an ACC version of him? Does the conference need one? Hayes Permar of SportsChannel8.com asked Skipper, the ESPN President, about the desire or need for an ACC version of Finebaum.

“We are always interested in unique talent, right?” Skipper said. “And of course it’s another reason for the (delay in the launch), is we’ll be looking for people who uniquely define and cover the ACC.”

Q. When will the digital version of the network launch?

A. Soon. ACC Network Extra, as it’s called, will launch next month. More than 600 “exclusive live events” will be available on Extra.

Q. Can I subscribe only to the digital version of the ACC Network?

A. Not exactly. There is no standalone subscription available for ACC Network Extra. It will be available only to those with existing access to ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN app. Which means you need to be a cable subscriber who receives ESPN as part of your package (or, well, you know … know someone who might be willing to share some log-in info).

Q. What happens to Raycom?

A. If you’re like me, ACC games on Raycom were a part of your childhood. Few things said “ACC basketball” like sitting near the fireplace on a cold January Saturday and turning on the Raycom Game of the Week, just in time for the intro. Just look at these graphics. And listen to this music.

Takes you back. Alas, though, the days are numbered for ACC games on Raycom.

“Raycom will still have association with ESPN, and with the ACC in some different matters,” Swofford said. “It will be a different relationship, and I think you’ll see Raycom – and I can’t speak for Raycom –but I think you’ll see sort of a repositioning if you will.

“Obviously production’s a big part of Raycom and will be going forward. And Raycom Sports, my understanding is, will continue in that vein. They also do our digital network at this point in time. And there could be some other longer term things that they get into that they may not be in right now.”

But, but … what about the Raycom ACC game of the week?

“No,” Swofford said, dealing a blow to generations of future children who will never experience such grand intro music, or the lively chemistry between the likes of Bob Rathbun and Dan Bonner. “ At that point they will move away from the syndication business.”

Think of all the great moments that have been broadcast on Raycom. One more intro of game on Raycom Sports (with Jefferson Pilot teleproductions), for posterity.

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