They did it again! The Southeastern Conference proved once more that they are the conference to beat with the announcement of the SEC Network. As many know the new network had been silently in the works for a while, and as SEC Commissioner Mike Slive put it today, “Goodbye Project X, and hello SEC Network.” Slive was joined by President of ESPN, John Skipper, to announce that come August 2014 the new network will make its grand debut.
SEC partnered with ESPN for a 20-year agreement extending through 2034, the longest agreement in sports. “The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms,” Slive said.
“We will increase the exposure for all 14 of our institutions, and we will showcase the incredible student-athletes in our league.”
The new multiplatform network will air SEC content 24 hours a day and seven days a week, including over 1,000 live events its first year, 450 televised and 550 shown digitally. It will also show 45 live SEC football games annually (including three per week) and more than 100 men’s basketball games, 60 women’s basketball games, 75 baseball games and other events from the league’s 21 sports. Not just that, but programming will also consist of studio shows, original content such as SEC Storied, spring football games, signing day and pro days coverage.
The SEC is following in the footsteps of other conferences with networks such as the Big 10 and Pac-12 but is doing it with a little more finesse. What makes this deal so unique from the others (besides ESPN’s name being attached) is that the league partnered with its primary rights holder, ultimately allowing more movement through the distributors. “This is not a regional network,” Skipper said. “This is a national network.”
“We’re confident this is a new and unique opportunity, nothing like this has been done before,” Skipper said. “[T]he level of distribution we’ll have at the beginning, the quality of the production, the amount of the games that we’ll have, the sort of integration with digital platforms, is taking this to a whole new level”
AT&T U-Verse, the fastest growing television provider in the U.S., has been secured as the networks first national distributor.
CBS will continue to have the first pick of SEC games each week, but will no longer have an exclusive window at 3:30 p.m. as it has in past years. After CBS chooses its game, the decision on what will air on SEC Network versus other ESPN platforms will be made by a “content board.”
Slive declined to answer any questions on the financial details when asked about specifics of ownership percentages but did say, “both ESPN and SEC are happy.”
ESPN affiliate sales and marketing will oversee the network’s day-to-day operations. The network will originate from ESPN’s Charlotte, N.C., offices with additional staff located at the company’s Bristol, Connecticut headquarters. Staff announcements and additional details will be made in the coming months.
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