At 5:00pm Eastern Time Thursday, the brand new SEC Network will launch operations from its home base in Charlotte. This morning, ESPN and the SEC provided some new information on the channel's programming lineup.
The network will feature a 14-day marathon -- "14 Schools in 14 Days" -- of school-specific coverage as a countdown to the net's first-ever live college football game on August 28th (featuring Texas A&M at South Carolina). During that 14-day launch window, classic games from each school "from the last 5-10 years" will be re-aired. (They might have a hard time finding "great games" for a few schools over that period.) The "SEC Storied" documentary series will pop up, including a new program focusing on celebrity fans of each SEC school. And each team will get its own 30-minute preview show featuring Greg McElroy and Booger McFarland.
One of the best things going for the new channel? We'll actually get to hear serious TV types ask questions of a man called "Booger."
ESPN/SEC also revealed the daily programs that you can expect to see on the new channel:
* "SEC Now" -- Consider it a type of "SportsCenter" for the SEC. It will air at 7pm on Mondays and Tuesdays and at 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. No word on Wednesdays.
* "The Paul Finebaum Show" -- After initial statements that this daily 3-7pm show would feature plenty of callers (uh-oh), the latest word from the host himself suggests fewer callers and more big-name guests. Good.
* "SEC in 60" -- Two re-cut games from the previous weekend, sliced down to an hour, and packaged as a one-hour program.
* "Film Room" -- Now here's a good one for hardcore fans... "every week sit down with a different head football coach in the SEC for an exclusive film session, breaking down the X's and O's of game footage." We can't be sure how detailed the coaches will be, but this one sounds like a winner. (Though you can bet coaches won't want to spend a lot of time doing it.)
The network will also feature a "GameDay"-style pregame show on Saturday mornings ("SEC Nation") and Saturday evening wrap-up show ("SEC Scoreboard").
For the old-timers out there, every Sunday night at 10pm will feature a look back at an historic game between SEC rivals in "SEC Rewind." The first, ironically, will be the 1980 Georgia/South Carolina game featuring legendary back Herschel Walker and George Rogers. Of course, Carolina wasn't in the SEC at the time, but you get the gist.
As someone who's spent the past 20 years working in the television industry, the rollout of the new network will be fascinating to watch. ESPN's production values are second to none and it does seem that the both parties (ESPN and the SEC) are building the channel's lineup toward the interests of the hardcore fan. Wise move. The SEC Network isn't likely to woo converts from Big Ten or Pac-12 schools. They won't be watching. So unlike so many networks out there that are bending over backwards to catch any eyeballs at all -- Can someone tell me how "Ice Road Truckers" is a History Channel show? -- the SEC Network appears to be going the hyper-local route. That's not the guaranteed direction that one might assume (see: "Ice Road Truckers" on the History Channel). ESPN and the SEC know the passion of their fans. Showing a 1980 game is more likely to attract viewers in Dixie and than a 1980 Big 10 game would in the Midwest.
So come 5pm Thursday, you can bet we'll be tuned in for the launch of the SEC Network. Here's guessing just about everyone reading this will be doing the same.