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The SEC Has Bought Third-Tier Rights Back In Preparation For New Network

handing over cashThe 14 schools of the Southeastern Conference will no longer be selling their third-tier television rights.  With a new SEC Network on the way — and a need for programming of all sorts — the league office has already completed buying back each school’s rights from groups like IMG, Learfield Sports, and CBS Collegiate Sports Properties.

The SEC and ESPN will announce their new television network tomorrow in Atlanta.

According to The SportsBusiness Daily, the third-tier television rights include “one football game, eight men’s basketball games, baseball, women’s basketball and all other nonrevenue sports that are not picked up by ESPN or a syndicated partner” for each school.

The SEC has also taken control of all its digital and sponsorship rights.  Those too will go to ESPN as the network will now package television and digital advertising when selling the league to corporate sponsors.  Obviously, the league’s partnership with the four-letter network is getting much, much stronger.  And according to IMG College President Ben Sutton, all of these moves will benefit the SEC:


“The conference and the schools will be strengthened by this new arrangement.  It was a very productive negotiation.  There’s always a little pain along the way, but both side worked really hard to get this done.”


Sutton’s company had handled sales of SEC corporate partnerships in the past.  IMG will continue to manage multimedia rights (radio, on-campus signage, etc) for a number of its existing SEC partners.  Schools’ multimedia — non-TV — rights were not part of the SEC’s buy-back process.

The previous rights-holders — IMG, Learfield, CBS Collegiate — agreed to give back $15 million worth of television rights during negotiations.  In exchange, those rights-holders will drop each school’s guaranteed income by about $1 million per year “for the next several years,” according to The Daily’s industry sources.

The new network and larger corporate sponsorship packages should bring in quite a bit more per school than the $1 million being yielded.  As we wrote in December, our sources project that the SEC — taking every revenue stream into account — should be writing checks to member institutions for $30-35 million in the not-so-distant future.  That’s about $10-15 million more than the league’s current annual payout.

We’ll have much more on the new SEC Network later today and tomorrow.




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