While Virginia Tech has been busy converting space and buying equipment for the launch of the ACC Network, most of Virginia’s work was done three years ago.
In 2016, the ACC not only announced the planned 2019 debut of the ACC Network but also began airing sporting events on the ACC Network Extra digital platform.
Virginia Tech had already been producing some of its sporting events for ESPN3 online broadcasts, so ACC Network Extra broadcasts were simply business as usual. Virginia Tech did not need to upgrade equipment or convert facilities until this year, as it got ready for the ACC Network television channel debuting Thursday.
But U.Va. had not been putting its sporting events on ESPN3. So three years ago, it had to spend $6 million on the equipment and facilities it needed to produce ACC Network Extra games. U.Va. bought HD cameras, replay machines and other equipment, including fiber optic lines connecting John Paul Jones Arena control rooms to U.Va. athletic venues.
As a result, there was little U.Va. still needed to do this year to get ready for the new TV channel.
“That was an advantage we had by being one of the late arrivers on the ESPN production side,” said Mike Szlamowicz, U.Va.’s director of video services, live events and the ACC Network. “A lot of schools had made investments in 2013, 2014, 2015 to do these digital shows for ESPN3 and then had to … do a really big refresh or a brand new build to get ready for the ACC Network.
“With us being a little later as far as our initial investment, I think we were able to … have more frank discussions with ESPN about what was coming and what the requirements would be.”
Later in the 2016-17 school year, UVa built a studio in the lobby of John Paul Jones Arena so any of its coaches could be interviewed remotely by ESPN anchors in Bristol, Conn.
The control rooms will now be used for both the ACC Network and ACC Network Extra. The lobby studio will be used for the Bristol-based ACC Network as well.