Hokies gear up, put $10M in media
When the ACC Network launches in August 2019, it will culminate a three-year process of remaking Virginia Tech’s media capabilities to the tune of $10 million.
The Hokies, like others in the conference, are making a huge all-in bet on the linear channel by buying production equipment, renovating thousands of feet of square footage and hiring almost a dozen new full-time staffers.
They’re also reshaping Lane Stadium’s most visible entrance on Beamer Way into a high-end studio that will provide game-day content across Virginia Tech’s digital extensions and in-venue video boards, in addition to the ACC’s linear channels and other ESPN platforms.
A few of the most-deep-pocketed ACC schools are spending in the $10 million neighborhood as well, but the Hokies, who will operate with a $92 million budget for athletics in 2018-19, have done as much to overhaul their facilities as anyone.
When asked about Virginia Tech’s transformation as not just an athletic department, but a content-producing media entity, Whit Babcock sat back in his chair and said, “I hadn’t really thought about it that way.” But Tech’s athletic director added: “The network is something that’s on my mind weekly, if not daily. I think about it often: How it will affect our recruiting, how it will affect us financially. Our fans want to know, too.”
Senior directors Brian Walls and Jed Castro, both Virginia Tech graduates, have been at the forefront of the school’s media efforts. They recently composed a request for proposal, with the help of audio-visual consultant Anthony James Partners, to outfit the new control rooms with equipment.
This is after visiting several ACC and SEC schools to get ideas on equipment, infrastructure and staffing. The idea is to be as forward thinking as possible to protect the $10 million investment by leaving plenty of room for expansion. The Hokies, whose revenue of $87 million in 2016-17 ranked 44th nationally among public schools, can’t afford do-overs.
“We didn’t want to just do the minimum,” Castro said. “We needed to think ahead and do it right the first time. We’re not usually the ones who are going to outspend everyone else, so our approach is to out-people them.”