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In surprise move, ACC Network will be based in Connecticut – not Charlotte

Commissioner John Swofford, center, announces an ACC/ESPN Network during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, July 21, 2016.
Commissioner John Swofford, center, announces an ACC/ESPN Network during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, July 21, 2016. AP

ESPN confirmed Monday it will base the ACC Network at its headquarters in Bristol, Conn., instead of Charlotte, surprising many who had anticipated the new network would be at ESPN’s Ballantyne offices alongside the SEC Network.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced plans last year to launch the long-awaited ACC cable channel network by 2019, sparking speculation that the conference would base the network in a location in which it’s already invested heavily, and one that’s roughly 100 miles southwest of its Greensboro headquarters.

In a story first reported by the Sports Business Journal Monday, Swofford said both Charlotte and Bristol are within the ACC’s footprint, referring to the conference’s northeastern schools like Boston College and Syracuse.

Amanda Brooks, a Charlotte-based ESPN PR manager of college networks, said the company looked closely at Charlotte and at other markets before deciding on Bristol.

ESPN will house the ACC Network in a 194,000 square-foot studio in Bristol that also houses “SportsCenter” and ESPN’s NFL studio programming, Brooks said. The SEC Network, essentially an extension of ESPN’s existing SEC programming, is the model for the ACC Network. Senior leadership overseeing the network will be in Charlotte, and studio operations will be in Bristol.

“As it was evaluated it became clear that a studio in Bristol supplemented by Charlotte would be the best decision,” Brooks said.

Brooks said the job count for the network hasn’t been finalized, but that there will be staff between both locations.

“It’s not a snub to Charlotte at all. It’s a dual presence opportunity and it makes the most sense for the ACC network,” Brooks said.

Establishing the ACC Network comes as viewers are increasingly cutting their cable cords: ESPN lost an estimated 7 million subscribers in less than three years as consumers move away from traditional cable and satellite bundles. ESPN cut about 100 jobs company-wide earlier this spring, including several in Charlotte as the company relocated its ESPNU operations to Bristol.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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