We already knew that an SEC Network was on the way. In fact, word had already leaked that it would be a partnership with — of course — ESPN. Also that it would launch shortly before the 2014 football season, most likely in August of that year.
So what new information did commissioner Mike Slive provide when he spoke with USA Today this week? See for yourself:
“Given the networks that have been developed, is there room for any more? And the answer is: ‘At least one.’”
Simply a cute way of stating that after much research the SEC’s network is on the way? Or could Slive have been suggesting there may be room for multiple SEC Networks, just as the Pac-12 has created seven different channels?
It’s possible that the SEC could launch eight channels with seven featuring content targeted toward two specific fanbases each (Alabama/Auburn, Arkansas/Missouri, LSU/Texas A&M, MSU/Ole Miss, Georgia/Florida, Kentucky/South Carolina, and Tennessee/Vanderbilt, for example) and the eighth serving as the SEC’s national network. We didn’t say it was likely — and we’ve heard very little to suggest that would be the league’s direction — but it is a possibility.
Back to reality, however, Slive added:
“We’ve been looking at all of our options since we added A&M and Missouri. As these conversations have evolved, we’ve not begun to focus clearly on what we think is the right way to go…
(There are) questions that need to be answered before final decisions are made. Obviously, we would not make the decision to go in that direction unless we believed we would be successful.”
There’s clearly not a lot of new that came from this interview. Everyone must still wait to see what the ownership split between SEC and ESPN will be, how much trouble the league will have getting cable and satellite carriage, how much the conference and ESPN will try to charge as a subscriber fee, and so on.
We’ve been told by an expert source on media rights from within the college sports industry that SEC schools will most likely bring in $30-35 million per year once the new Sugar Bowl partnership, college football playoff, SEC Network, and CBS and ESPN contract renegotiations are finalized. This past year, the average payout for the league’s schools was $20.1 million, for comparison. Not a bad bump if that’s indeed what it ends up being.
The commissioner said people could expect “an announcement within the next couple of months, if not sooner.” But one thing that could be slowing down the negotiations and renegotiations with television partners is the continued uncertainty surrounding conference realignment. It’s hard to plan a network — or networks — when it’s possible more schools could be joining the SEC in the coming years, months, weeks, days, minutes… you get the picture.
And even if the SEC stands pat with 14 schools, the value of other leagues’ television contracts will obviously have some bearing on what the SEC can grab from its TV partners. In that sense, the expansion plans of the ACC or Big East or Big Ten, etc., would have an impact even on a 14-school SEC.