Up Next: SEC Network

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(from Sports Business Journal, April 15, 2013) The Southeastern Conference has successfully completed the buy-back of its TV, digital, and sponsorship rights from all third parties, allowing the launch of its new TV channel with ESPN starting next year.  The network has yet to be named and will officially debut in August 2014.  It will be a national channel, making the already prestigious SEC brand even more prominent.  The SEC is working with ESPN to build its own operation at ESPN Regional Television in Charlotte.

The network has been moving rapidly after reacquiring its third-tier TV rights recently, which put talks with ESPN into motion.  These third-tier rights are valued at over $15 million per year and include one football game, 8 men’s basketball games, and all other nonrevenue sports.  ESPN will have full control of inventory for SEC football games, which empowers them to use specific games in markets where they can’t work out a deal with distributors.  This gives ESPN an immense amount of negotiating leverage with distributors, which has been the downfall for previous attempts for a college network.

The SEC will also give control of its digital and sponsorship rights.  The ability to package TV and digital advertising in corporate sponsorship deals in an extreme advantage, and gives the network more flexibility.  ESPN is still in the process with reacquiring its syndicated rights from Comcast Sports Net and Fox Sports Net.  Both networks buy SEC games from ESPN currently and their contracts expire in 2015.  Still, expectations are high that this partnership will be successful and mutually beneficial.  The SEC has consistently drawn the highest TV ratings every year in college football, and is home to the last 7 national champions.  “The conference and schools will be strengthened by this arrangement,” said IMG College President Ben Sutton.

Although many details have yet to be discovered, all bets are on the SEC’s partnership with ESPN to be an extreme success.  The SEC continues its leadership in college sports and ESPN only improves on the dominance it has achieved over other sport networks.