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Expansion Not Tied To Renegotiating TV Deals, SEC Network Remains A Hypothetical Possibility

Mike Herndon of The Mobile Press-Register is one of the SEC writers I most enjoy reading.  Week-in, week-out, Herndon is as solid as they come in terms of Down South writers.

But he’s fallen into a trap today.  He’s fallen into the same trap that so many folks are falling into.

He writes:  “The SEC doesn’t need to expand to make its case as the nation’s top football conference, no matter what the Big Ten does.”

I agree with that.

“Any expansion should be based on one thing — does it make sense financially for the league?”

Again, I’m good with that.

“And to answer that question, we’d have to know whether the SEC could rework its 15-year TV deals with ESPN and CBS, or whether they’ve be splitting the same $3 billion pie into a few more slices.”

Uh, not necessarily.  And that’s the trap.

As we recently wrote, a full-scale renegotiation of the deals with CBS and ESPN might not be necessary at all.

By adding new teams to the league, the SEC would also be adding more games per season.  That’s new inventory to sell.  If the league were to grow to 16 teams and switch to a nine-game conference schedule (like the Big Ten and Pac-10), that would mean an additional 24 football games per year.  That’s two per week.

That would give the SEC options.

1.  ESPN — which threw more money at the ACC than anyone dreamed — might be willing to renegotiate with the SEC if it meant adding four more “premier” names to its roster of teams.  Think Texas and Texas A&M, for example.  Both have big fanbases and bring in a lot of eyeballs.

2.  The SEC could also reach an agreement with ESPN to simply maintain the status quo.  The network would maintain the rights to the same total number of games that it controls under the current deal.  After CBS, ESPN would pick its games and leave the rest for the SEC to sell off to another network (or two).  Would a network like CSS or Fox Sports be willing to buy an SEC “Game of the Week” package?  Would Fox — the big boy network, not the regional channels — be willing to buy an SEC package?  They just offered the ACC a ton of money only to lose out to ESPN.  They certainly have the cash and the apparent interest.  Also, would Turner be interested in expanding its college sports coverage?  That network just grabbed a portion of the NCAA tournament and might want to push football with the top brand available.

All of this is built solely on expanded inventory for football, but the league’s basketball inventory would grow even more.

And here’s another possibility that no one has mentioned:

3.  Let’s say the SEC keeps its current deals with CBS and ESPN in place.  The league could then take all of its new inventory (as well as the tape delay rights to all of its other games) and create its own SEC Network.  Two years ago, the Big Ten Network looked more like a headache than a goldmine.  The SEC chose not to launch its own channel.  But things have changed and the Big Ten Network now brings in more than was initially projected.  It also figures to keep growing.  Now, if an SEC Network aired two live football games per week, coaches shows, and game replays in the fall… and then did the same during basketball season, do you think SEC fans would call their local cable operators demanding access?  I do.

The bottom line is this: Expansion does NOT rest on the SEC having to renegotiate more money from CBS and/or ESPN.  The SEC has smart people at the wheel and those folks could certainly dream up and create new revenue streams if given a fresh batch of new inventory to play with.




  1. [...] a few emails asking us for our take on the matter.  Well, we happen to agree with them… since we wrote of that very possibility on May 19th, 2010:“… a full-scale renegotiation of the deals with CBS and ESPN might not be necessary at [...]

  2. [...] website claim that it was the first to report the possibility of an SEC Network, that actually, we have been mentioning that possibility since May 19th of 2010… at a time when everyone else believed that possibility to be stone dead.  In fact, we brought up [...]

  3. [...] a network later this week.  We, of course, pointed to the possibility of a conference network all the way back in May of 2010, when most everyone assumed that the prospects for a conference-owned channel had died.)But for [...]

  4. [...] cash — a lot more cash — out of CBS and ESPN or creates its very own network — something that we were the first to discuss right here back in the spring of 2010 — the Southeastern Conference is about to set the standard for television revenue [...]

  5. [...] while most dismissed an SEC network as an impossibility at that point, we wrote way back on May 19th of 2010 that Mike Slive’s league could still launch a new network if it expanded and added new [...]

  6. [...] Since May of 2010, we’ve been pointing to the possibility of an SEC-owned network (though some sites that launched well after 2010 would have you believe they were the first to cover the topic).  Money has always been the driving factor behind such a channel.  And now the talk all revolves around how much cash the network could bring in for the league and its teams. [...]

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