Published May 22, 2012 - 11:48am
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A collective “it’s about time” washed over the southeast crowd yesterday when the SEC talked about possibly starting its own television network.
All this talk started sometime around 2008, when the SEC signed contracts with ESPN and CBS. And in the fine print at the bottom of the page was the statement that the SEC agreed not to start its own TV network.
That could be close to being over.
The SportsBusiness Journal notes that the SEC, while trying to renegotiate its contract with CBS and ESPN respectively (aka trying to get more money), they are also threatening to start their own TV network as well.
It remains to be seen if the SEC will be an equity partner in the channel, like the Big Ten, or if the conference will simply sell the rights to ESPN for an additional fee.
There are several different paths the SEC could take on a channel. It could follow the Big Ten model, where the conference is a 49 percent owner of Big Ten Network with Fox and shares in its revenue. Or it could go the Pac-12 route, which owns all of its regional networks. Texas, on the other hand, sold its rights to ESPN for a fee and ESPN owns all of the Longhorn Network.
All of those models are believed to be in play for the SEC, but any channel couldn’t be launched until 2014 at the earliest, when ESPN gets back syndication rights it sublicensed to regional sports networks operated by Fox Sports and Comcast. A decision on whether to go forward with a new SEC-focused network would be made by the SEC-member university presidents and ESPN. A final decision on a network will be made by ESPN in conjunction with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and the presidents.
The SEC could launch the network as early as the start of the 2014 season.
The idea of the network will a very hot topic, among other things, when the SEC meets next week in Destin, Florida, for their annual spring meetings.
In fact, the SEC has been renegotiating with ESPN and CBS since it expanded to 14 teams, taking on Missouri and Texas A&M.
According to the article, sources think CBS will be paying a prorated increase to the SEC.
While revenues will likely increase because of the expansion and a strong argument by Commissioner Slive, the big money will be in the network itself.
But all the moves that will be made this summer during this renegotiation process with ESPN and CBS will be anchored on the fact that the SEC has expanded its footprint, and that means more money in the bank.
How much could a new SEC Network be worth? Numbers can get astronomically high very quickly. The SEC would be richer than any of its neighboring conferences for a while until one of the other Big Four conferences (Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12) decides its time to up the ante.
A 14-team SEC will be set in the future, no doubt about it. But if a 16-team superconference were to come into play, then no one knows what anything will look like at that point.