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ACC Network will cost money before it makes schools money

Estimates are pretty high for infrastructure spend early on...

NCAA Basketball: ACC Operation Basketball Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Over the weekend, the Daily Press’s David Teel wrote up an interesting article around the forthcoming ACC Network -- mainly focusing in on all of the infrastructure improvements needed to get the ESPN-run channel up and running by August 2019.

Right off the bat, Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock told him that all schools will likely be committing between $5 and $7 million each to add the needed technology by next year (12 full months before the launch). Upgrades include new control rooms and studios, the latest in television production gear and of course, the staff to take care of it all.

Apparently the SEC rushed along so quickly that most schools have already had to replace the equipment they purchased at the time of launch, according to the post. With a longer ramp, however, the ACC appears to be making future-focused investments. Virginia was already set to invest in high-definition video before the network even became official.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech’s Brian Walls (of the video team) says that UVA, Florida State and Duke are all out ahead of everyone else in terms of infrastructure, but the other 12 schools are progressing at some rate or another.

Importantly, the emphasis will be on quality of broadcasts, and that could eventually impact a school’s selection for broadcasts. As Virginia Tech mentions:

“The conference as a whole has X number of linear broadcasts they have to deliver. If they see that Virginia Tech doesn’t necessarily have the best equipment, Virginia Tech might not get selected for (as many) linear broadcasts. Let’s make sure our minimum is above (ESPN’s) minimum.”

Each school is likely to be responsible for 65 broadcasts by 2019 -- a pretty steep number, especially for schools that haven’t done much of this before.

The follow-up not addressed here is where the Syracuse Orange stand in terms of upgrades. While they’re not at the front of the pack, one would assume they’re close.

Compared to the other schools, Syracuse has numerous advantages: John Wildhack’s ESPN tenure, Newhouse’s existing production facilities and the fact that they’d only need to outfit one major venue (the Carrier Dome) instead of two or more like every other program.

In any case, the Orange will be ready (or close to it) come next August. Despite concerns around cord-cutting, this will be a linear television network, which comes with some higher standards. But even if it was largely relegated to streaming, the standards are increasing there as well.

This launch is going to cost some money in the short-term, but at least the conference is equipped for the future now. Between current league earnings, future ACC Network revenues and the ACC’s continued athletic success, we’re all well-situated for continued financial growth (even if that’s slowed by changes within the cable industry).