Commissioner John Swofford speaks to the media during the Atlantic Coast Conference men's NCAA basketball media day in Charlotte on Oct. 28, 2015. ESPN has decided to base the ACC Network at its home base of Bristol, Conn., instead of adding it to the SEC Network’s production facility in Charlotte. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) Chuck Burton AP
Commissioner John Swofford speaks to the media during the Atlantic Coast Conference men's NCAA basketball media day in Charlotte on Oct. 28, 2015. ESPN has decided to base the ACC Network at its home base of Bristol, Conn., instead of adding it to the SEC Network’s production facility in Charlotte. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) Chuck Burton AP

Luke DeCock

Has ESPN already cheaped out on the upcoming ACC Network?

By Luke DeCock

ldecock@newsobserver.com

September 20, 2017 12:45 PM

It’s entirely possible that ESPN’s decision to base the ACC Network at its home base of Bristol, Conn., instead of adding it to the SEC Network’s production facility in Charlotte won’t have any impact on the presentation, personality or quality of the nascent network. Technology has advanced to the point where just about anything in television, other than the actual cameras, can be placed just about anywhere without the viewer noticing.

What it will do, beyond a doubt, is raise legitimate questions about whether the ACC Network – scheduled to launch in 2019, at a time of increased financial pressures and cost-cutting at ESPN – will end up being SEC Lite instead of a comparable operation. Those questions will now persist even if the two networks end up getting equal treatment in terms of resources and production values, solely because of ESPN’s decision to base the network somewhere other than the heart of ACC country, especially when the alleged equivalent network is already based there.

“It’s not a snub to Charlotte at all,” an ESPN spokesperson said, but the issue isn’t whether Charlotte is getting snubbed. It’s whether the ACC – and by extension its fans – will get shortchanged with this network.

From the outside, Charlotte seemed like an inevitable choice for the network’s epicenter. ESPN already has its studio facility there – one that should have some open space after ESPNU’s operation was moved to Bristol – and the geographic synergy is obvious. The network’s executives will be based there, but the ACC Network’s studio programming will originate from Bristol while the SEC Network’s programming will continue to originate from Charlotte, smack in the middle of the ACC footprint, host of the ACC football title game, the 2019 ACC basketball tournament and the conference’s football and men’s basketball preview events.

It certainly has the distinct aura of penny-pinching, although in this era of digital television, it may not matter at all. But at the least, given the uncertainty surrounding ESPN’s finances and how they may affect this new network, you’d like to have the sense the ACC Network is going to be done the right way, and doing it somewhere other than Charlotte certainly feels like the first corner has been cut.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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