SEC Starts Its Own Network
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The only real surprise here is it's doing it with the help of ESPN as opposed to its traditional national broadcast mainstay, CBS, which is putting big bucks into raising the profile of its own all-sports network.
If it's anything like the Big Ten and Pac12 networks, expect a steady menu of live and replayed football and basketball games, along with strong coverage of low- and non-revenue sports.
Here's an example of the sky-high revenues these networks can generate: the Big Ten induced its member schools with hockey programs -- college hockey is major-revenue sport within its footprint -- to jettison their long-standing ties with traditonal leagues to form a Big Ten hockey conference. Furthermore, it's made no secret of its desire to see other member schools such as Illinois and Iowa elevate hockey to the varsity level. This provides its network with even more premier live events, and like its football conference extending to nine league games per season, it doesn't have to share the related revenues with outside parties.
The moral of the story is, in college sports, broadcast outlets are still the tail that wags the dog. It's just that now the conferences have connected their tail to their dog.
The SEC doesn't have an additional major sport to bring into its network coverage, but it will do nicely with the spring edition of its football coverage. Most likely, it will do very nicely, indeed.
Its programing will also include 45 live football games, more than 100 men's and more than 60 women's basketball games, 75 baseball games, and selected events from the other 17 SEC sports.
Under Mike Slive, the SEC has become a billion-dollar corporation that not only dominates football, but other sports as well. In 2012 alone, the SEC produced champions in football, gymnastics, men's golf ,and its first ever softball national champion.
The conference has also fielded national champions in track and field, swimming, baseball, and women's basketball over the past few years.
Commissioner Slive did a great job reading the press release from his PR department that always accompanies these announcements to make sure all the usual banal buzz words creep into media reports, surrounding them with quotation marks so the propaganda doesn't get edited out:
"The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms."
ESPN President, John Skipper who was probably doing cart wheels all the way to the podium, was surely thrilled at one-upping CBS. He, too, pulled a template from what surely is an endless PR inventory at his Bristol headquarters; this also allowed him to state the obvious and protect it with quotation marks:
"The SEC is unmatched in its success on the field and its popularity with fans nationwide."
Skipper must not have read some of the responses I did to this announcement on Twitter, but that doesn't matter. He knows all too well what the SEC has done for CBS Sports, so I'm sure he probably doesn't care what other fans think as long as the money keeps rolling in.
And according to this new contract, the hookup will last for at least the next 20 years.