Since the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is down to four teams — none of which are from the ACC — now seems like a good time to think happier ACC thoughts. So why not look ahead to what the new ACC Network is going to be like?
The easiest way to get an idea of what ACC fans can expect when the new network dedicated to ACC sports launches in 2019 is to consider it’s older cousin, the 3 1/2-year-old SEC Network.
ESPN is producing both, so you’d expect there will be some similarities. One surprising bit of news from ESPN is the ACC Network won’t be based in Charlotte, North Carolina as the SEC Network is.
I had imagined some of the on-air people might just change hats as they went back and forth between ACC and SEC studios in Charlotte. (Ex-Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio has done similar double duty in the past.) But no. The bulk of the ACC Network’s work will be produced in Bristol, Connecticut. So there’s that.
But in a broader sense, here’s what will happen: The ACC Network will mean a lot to fans of the schools that struggle to get attention in the league.
Here’s why. ESPN already blows out every big UNC or Duke basketball game. ESPN hypes games — especially the exalted UNC vs. Duke game — for weeks in advance and at every possible moment (including during the SEC men’s basketball Tournament, but don’t get me started).
So for those fans (and to a slightly lesser extent, Clemson football fans), what happens on the ACC Network is a very thin layer of icing on a very filling cake. They can already gorge on their teams’ exploits without ever layering on the ACC Network.
In fact, most UNC and Duke basketball and Clemson football games won’t even air on the ACC Network because those marquee match-ups will stay on ESPN. Sure, Clemson football might show up on the new network when the Tigers play Wofford. But that’s about it.
Good news for the “other” teams
But here’s the other side of the pregame coin: If you love UNC football or Clemson basketball, this network is for you. Almost every one of your games will end up on TV somewhere, with a good number of them on the ACC Network.
So instead of Clemson football crowding the others out, the others now have another place to go to get some attention. If you’re a fan of Virginia Tech basketball or N.C. State football, you are now likely to be able to watch every game, no matter how meaningful or meaningless.
Even better, the ACC Network will produce something like the SEC Network’s nightly “SEC Now” — the conference network version of ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
So for an hour or so each night, your team will get at least some airtime about that day’s exploits. That means airtime for teams that would have gone unmentioned on the national network.
I dropped a lot of ACC team names here, (and should add Georgia Tech where my wife went to undergrad!) but no doubt some have noticed there was no mention of Notre Dame. Notre Dame football, which dwarfs the entire ACC in terms of the attention it gets, is keeping its deal with NBC for now. So it’s not a big factor in this context.
And what about sports other than men’s basketball and football? They’ll benefit from this as well. And that’s a topic for another blog post.