Delayed due to the tragedy in Boston last week, the SEC Network is officially a public go. And, as is the case on the field… in the NFL draft… on the recruiting trail, the preeminent football conference in the country is poised to once again top all others in revenue streams as well.
At a press conference in Atlanta Thursday morning attended by dozens of league luminaries, including all 14 head football coaches, commissioner Mike Slive unveiled the creation of the aptly-named SEC Network. The joint venture with ESPN will officially launch in August of 2014, and in Slive’s words “marks the first time a conference will launch a network in collaboration with its primary rights holder.”
The hugely-profitable Big Ten Network was a joint venture with FOX Sports, which is not that conference’s primary rights holder.
While the conference would not get into financial specifics, with Slive saying only that they “believe this network will be very successful in terms of distribution and in terms of significant revenue,” it’s expected the SEC Network will be at least on par with its Big Ten counterpart. The past two years, each member of the Big Ten outside of Nebraska — as a “new” member, the Cornhuskers are not yet entitled to a full share — received $7.2 million and $7.9 million from the conference’s network alone. That number is expected to at least double to the neighborhood of $15 million annually per member by 2027.
The SEC should easily approach $10 million annually for each member school within five years.
“The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms,” said Slive in a statement. “We will increase exposure of SEC athletics programs at all 14 member institutions, as we showcase the incredible student-athletes in our league. The agreement for a network streamlines and completes an overall media rights package that will continue the SEC’s leadership for the foreseeable future.”
Below are some notes from this afternoon’s much-hyped press conference:
— Three football games per week for 13 weeks and approximately 45 football games annually will be broadcast on the SEC Network annually. Only two of the games per year, however, will be televised on Thursdays. “We’re a Saturday league,” said Slive.
— CBS will no longer own the “exclusive window” for Saturday mid-afternoon SEC games as the network will televise games in three time slots: early afternoon (noon-ish), mid-afternoon (3:30) and evening (seven-ish). CBS, though, will maintain the first choice of games involving SEC schools.
— The network will air 1,000 hours of live sporting events in its first year, with 450 of those hours coming on the network itself and 550 on various digital platforms. Additionally, each SEC school will provide its own original content for the network.
— AT&T U-verse is the first media company to sign on as a distributor of the SEC Network. Based solely on the number of football games that will be available, expect the likes of DirecTV, Dish network, Comcast, Time-Warner, et al to sign on at some point before the August launch date next year.
— The SEC and ESPN also announced that they have extended their media rights deal through 2034. ESPN president John Skipper stated that he “believes this is the largest agreement in all of sports.”