Some Highlights From SEC, ESPN Announcing Launch of SEC Network

ESPN and the Southeastern Conference formally announced Thursday the creation of the SEC Network.

It will launch in 2014 and the two entities have extended their media rights agreement through 2034. Some highlights of the announcement, which was attended by 32 SEC coaches, including Arkansas' Mike Anderson (basketball), Bret Bielema (football) and track (Chris Bucknam).

•Content will include 1,000 live sporting events per year, divided between TV and digital platforms.  Individual schools will also produce content for the network.

•For football the plan is to televise three football games per week over 13 weeks. Only two games per year will be televised on Thursday nights and the rest will be broadcast on Saturdays.

•ESPN and SEC reps declined to discuss financial details, but early reports estimate the network could generate $28 million annually for each SEC member schools. Currently the SEC distributes about $18 million to each school per year.

•CBS will continue to televise SEC football, but no longer has an “exclusive window,” meaning ESPN networks can also televise afternoon games. CBS does continue having the first choice of SEC football contests.

•AT&T U-verse has already signed on as a distributor. Officials at the announcement said they anticipate other distributors will sign on relatively quickly.

•This likely eliminates that single pay-per-view game each season. So instead of watching Arkansas-Missouri State on PPV, you’ll be able to find it on the SEC Network.

No word yet what this will mean for your cable bill.

More from the SEC Network launch press release with quotes from ESPN president John Skipper and SEC commissioner Mike Slive:

“The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms,” stated Slive. “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.”    

Each weekend throughout the season, the new network will air multiple top-tier matchups from the strongest conference in college football. Since 2006, the SEC has claimed seven consecutive football national championships.  In 2011-12, SEC teams won eight national championships: football (Alabama), men’s basketball (Kentucky), gymnastics (Alabama), men’s indoor track and field (Florida), women’s tennis (Florida), women’s golf (Alabama), men’s outdoor track and field (Florida), and softball (Alabama). Since 1990, the SEC has won 149 national team championships for an average of more than six per year.

Skipper said, “The SEC is unmatched in its success on the field and its popularity with fans nationwide. 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. Also, it will serve the needs of our multichannel distributors and advertisers by providing extremely attractive programming options across all platforms.”

As part of the agreement, ESPN will now oversee the SEC’s official Corporate Sponsor Program. In addition, ESPN and the SEC also agreed to extend their existing media rights agreement through 2034. ESPN has televised the SEC since 1982.  ESPN’s existing networks present more than 1,600 hours of SEC action each year. The new network will focus exclusively on the SEC and add another outlet to deliver sports fans more SEC content than ever.

AT&T U-verse® has been secured as the network’s first national distributor. AT&T U-verse is the fastest growing TV provider in the U.S. and their subscribers will have access to an unprecedented amount of SEC content across all platforms.  Subscribers receiving the live linear network via a multichannel subscription will also have access to the network on PCs, tablets, smartphones and select gaming devices like Xbox. Additional games and coverage will be available through an authenticated digital offering. Fans looking to learn more about how to get the SEC Network can visit GetSECNetwork.com for more information.

“We are pleased to be involved with the SEC and ESPN at the very beginning of this great alliance,” said Jeff Weber, President of Content and Advertising Sales, AT&T. “As the fastest growing and most advanced pay TV service, we want to bring our customers the highest value and most compelling product that we possibly can. Access to the SEC Network, across multiple platforms, will only increase the demand for U-verse.”

ESPN’s Justin Connolly, formerly senior vice president, 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, Conn., headquarters. Staff announcements and additional details will be made in the coming months.

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