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ACC Network Launch Day: With Buy-In From ESPN and All 15 Schools, Newest College Sports Network Is Poised for Success

22/08/2019

ACC Network Launch Day: With Buy-In From ESPN and All 15 Schools, Newest College Sports Network Is Poised for Success Years of preparation comes to fruition as ACCN debuts on Thursday evening By Brandon Costa, Director of Digital

Thursday, August 22, 2019 - 4:29 pm

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Hang on, I just got to put down the paper bag I've been breathing into. Even for an industry veteran like ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Amy Rosenfeld, this feeling never goes away.

With the network since 2007, Rosenfeld has worked her fair share of major events, network launches, and property debuts, but, as the long-awaited and highly anticipated ACC Network kicks off on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET, the butterflies will be just as intense as on her first day on the job.

After years of preparations, the ACC Network launches on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.

We are feeling really, really lucky to be able to be part of something that not a lot of people get to do, says Rosenfeld, whose career encompassed work on numerous Olympics, FIFA World Cups, X Games, and much more. We're going to put a lot of energy into Aug. 22, and, hopefully, we are going to put on a really robust, interesting, and exciting show. What we've tried to emphasize to everyone, though, is [that] we better have a little left in the tank because, as far as I'm aware, we're still on the air on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24 and in September and in October and in November.

To say that this day has been a long time coming would be an understatement. For more than three years, the Atlantic Coast Conference's 15 member institutions have been expanding staffs, campaigning for funding (even in front of the government in their state capitals), remodeling their venues, and building multimillion-dollar broadcast facilities all to be a part of what promises to be the most technologically comprehensive and advanced college-sports television network to date.

It has been complete buy-in, from the brass at ESPN to athletic directors across the ACC map, that has helped set up this network for success on its opening day.

This is not blowing smoke here: the support at ESPN, I'll tell you, [has] that same feel like when we did [FIFA] World Cups, says Rosenfeld. The company is all in. One of the great benefits of being in Bristol is the access to the people, not just the infrastructure. That's where I take a lot of relief and joy in that we couldn't be in a better place and have a better support structure.

ESPN Coordinating Producer Meg Aronowitz concurs: Honestly, every school to a person, all 15 of the schools have the same level of enthusiasm for this project and have had that same level of enthusiasm from day one.

She and ESPN Director, Remote Production Operations, Rex Arends (who has now worked on three of the college network launches: besides this one, Big Ten Network in 2007 and SEC Network in 2015) have served as ESPN liaison to all the schools. I mean there was a time where Rex and I were traveling around to the schools and were calling it the IF Network' because there was not even a contract signed, she says. But we wanted to start having conversations with them about what this would look and feel like if we were to launch the ACC Network.

A Path Different From the SEC Network's

ESPN has, of course, fought through this forest before, launching the University of Texas's Longhorn Network in August 2011 and, more broadly, the wildly successful SEC Network in 2015.

Another key executive, Stephanie Druly, EVP, event and studio production, ESPN, has led the charge on all three network debuts. However, to say the ACC Network is simply a cut-and-paste of the SEC template would be a gross underestimation of this project. The ACC Network has benefited from nearly a decade's worth of learning how to prepare and, most important, maintain a sports network of this scope.

Prior to the SEC Network launch, sure, each campus bolstered its onsite production facilities substantially, but a large amount of the focus went into acquiring equipment and preparing the schools for what was largely expected to be streamed productions exclusively. Quickly, those school-produced live events were being relied on to fill out the SEC Network linear schedule and were even finding their way onto other networks in the ESPN family.

As ESPN prepared the ACC schools this time around, its team had the foresight to spend a good 18 months training the staffs on the art, philosophy, and execution of live sports television.

It was something that we really, frankly, didn't have the ability to do when we launched the SEC Network, says Aronowitz. When we launched the SEC Network, a lot of us came on board shortly before the network launched. The school piece was meant to be a digital play. We didn't really think through the process of mentoring and educating and supporting the schools on that level. So the four-plus years of experience that we've [attained with] the SEC Network taught us how we needed to ramp up for the ACC Network.

From left: ESPN executives Stacy McCollum, Amy Rosenfeld, Meg Aronowitz, and Rosalyn Durant have played key roles in ESPN's launch of the ACC Network.

On top of that, many of the 15 ACC Network institutions are already seasoned pros at producing live events from their studios for ESPN. Over the past 18 months, more than 120 games produced by the staffs and facilities of the ACC schools have aired on linear ESPN networks.

A huge factor in the ACC Network's successful lead-up to its debut has been the emphasis on people. All of the school's 15 athletic directors, in addition to budgeting for facilities, signed off on the expansion of their content-creation, technical, and engineering staffs to support the year-round efforts.

[That's], arguably, the bigge
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2019/08/22/acc-network-launch-day-with-buy...
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