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Television Changes Coming For The SEC?

Three years ago, the SEC signed a pair of dynamite contracts with ESPN and CBS that caused the eyes of sports fans to bug out of their noggins.  Three years later — as is often the case with mega-contracts — other leagues have reached and passed the bar set by the Southeastern Conference.

So will the SEC act?

In Destin, Mike Slive said that he was pleased with the built-in escalators in the league’s contracts.  But he also said the SEC would chat with ESPN about the college sports/television landscape “at some appropriate time.”

“It’s a chance for the two of us to sit down together and look at what’s going on in the world of intercollegiate athletics and television at the time, in the event that changes in technology and other options are available.  It’s a chance to discuss whether or not any adjustments should be made in how we do things.”

While the commissioner says that he is “very comfortable” with the league’s TV deals, he also added the following: “We’ve been known to be creative and do things that other people haven’t done.”

Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News — who has become the de facto “business reporter” on the SEC beat — does an excellent job of breaking down the league’s television options in a lengthy piece posted today.

Among the highlights:

1.  The SEC’s pact with ESPN prevents the league from starting its own network like the Big Ten, the Pac-12 or the University of Texas.  But might the league someday consider its own channel?  “We’ll sit down at some point and do a look-in and see where we are.  I’m going to leave it right there,” Slive said.

2.  The SEC’s goals in its last television negotiations were — according to Slive — to provide financial security for the league’s schools and to gain more national exposure for its programs… “not to be the national leader in TV revenue,” as Solomon puts it.

Last year, ESPN aired 1,600 hours of programming devoted to the SEC and its schools.

“We didn’t sacrifice anything,” Slive said.  “If you want to do some math, you might want to compare the last 12 years of our agreement to the first 12 years of the Pac-12.  I think you’d be very surprised at just how things line up.”

3.  Future developments in online technology will continue to play into the SEC’s and ESPN’s thinking.  The conference has recently launched more live streaming programming on its own digital network while ESPN’s expansion of its brand has brought added exposure to the league.


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