The SEC and ESPN introduced the SEC Network this afternoon in Atlanta. As word of the announcement had been leaked for some time, neither the announcement nor many of the details were a big surprise. There will be a lot of games and a lot of money, though specific financial terms and other specifics were not discussed. We got a few minor details:
- The deal will run for 20 years, through 2034.*
- The network will not mean additional Thursday night football games. Commissioner Mike Slive declared, “we’re a Saturday league.” Amen.
- CBS will still have the first pick of games with the rest to be distributed by a “content board.” But while CBS will still have the big game, the SEC Network will run games that overlap the 3:30 time slot.
- AT&T U-verse is the only carrier currently signed on to carry the network, but negotiations are underway with everyone else. You can be sure that more agreements will be worked out over the next year.
- The aim for distribution is nationwide, but initial emphasis will be on widespread coverage in the SEC footprint.
- There will be 1,000 sporting events broadcast each year – 450 on the network and an additional 550 online. The network will carry 45 football games – three per week.
* – this is way off-topic, but you start to wonder what the product will look like in 20 years. Will athletics be one of the few physical remnants of universities that will have otherwise moved online? Will safety concerns transform the game of football into something far different? Will some of this money begin to trickle down to the student-athletes and bring a whole other set of equity questions that reshape college athletics? Will the success of these major conference networks further pry apart the top schools from the rest of the NCAA?