The SEC and ESPN held a press conference Thursday to announce that they have signed a 20-year agreement – through year 2034 – to launch a 24/7 SEC-dedicated channel dubbed the SEC Network beginning in August 2014.
The new contract is unprecedented, as it is not only the largest TV contract in sports, but the largest in TV history. The value of the contract or its finances were not discussed during the press conference.
The network will broadcast over 1000 events when it is launched, including approximately 45 football games annually, with the network broadcasting three games per weekend. The network will be managed entirely by ESPN, meaning they will determine what games go to their existing networks and which ones will broadcast on the SEC Network. The big news about that is that it ends CBS’s afternoon exclusivity window, meaning they will lose the privilege of being the only network to broadcast an SEC game during the afternoon timeframe. CBS will still retain the first pick of each week’s games.
The SEC Network will also bring more focus to the other 20 sports the SEC sponsors, including more than 100 men’s basketball games, 60 women’s basketball games, and over 75 baseball games, among others.
When games are not airing, ESPN plans to have studio shows and original content, such as their SEC Storied series, as well as signing day and pro day coverage. They will also be requesting content from the 14 member institutions so that they can create, develop and produce their own content.
“The SEC is unmatched in its success on the field and its popularity with fans nationwide,” ESPN President John Skipper said. “The new network’s top-quality SEC matchups across a range of sports will serve all sports enthusiasts including the most passionate, die-hard SEC fans.”
As a result of the deal, ESPN will take over the SEC Corporate Sponsor program. The network will broadcast out of Charlotte, NC, where some of ESPN’s offices already originate. The next step for the SEC Network is grabbing attention from cable and satellite providers to get their network on the air. AT&T U-Verse has said that they have already signed an agreement to broadcast the network beginning in August 2014. The league launched the site GetSECNetwork.com to give fans info on how to get the SEC Network once it goes live. It certainly won’t be too hard for the network to grab attention once they start broadcasting live games.
“The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said 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.”
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