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Details are slim, but money won't be with possible SEC TV network

by | College Football Insider
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The soon-to-be SEC TV network 'is going to big.' (US Presswire)  
The soon-to-be SEC TV network 'is going to big.' (US Presswire)  

SANDESTIN, Fla. -- Project X.

That's the official name -- for now -- of the yet to be developed SEC network.

Project X? How about Project Cash Cow?

"It's going to be big," Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said Wednesday. "We don't know what it is. But it's going to be big."

Project X -- seriously that's what it's called behind closed doors -- is the codename for the soon-to-be SEC network. SEC commissioner Mike Slive was asked about the progress with the SEC network and he wouldn't provide many -- well, make that any -- details.

"We're talking with television partners about our television future," said Slive, who offered no other information on the SEC network.

The SportsBusiness Journal first reported last week that ESPN is negotiating with the SEC about an SEC-branded channel.

Bjork and other SEC athletic directors attending the league's spring meetings at the Sandestin Beach Hilton said how much revenue the network would be worth has not been shared with the league members.

By comparison, the Big Ten Network's $2 billion, 20-year deal -- it's five-year anniversary is next month -- is worth $8.2 million per school annually, sources told CBSSports.com. However, Bjork believes an SEC Network would be worth more.

"Looking at the TV distribution and households were in now, I think it will be every bit as big as the Big Ten Network," Bjork said. "What's your distribution model? The footprints we're in now, pretty much covers a big swath of the country. To me, the upside is tremendous."

An industry source told CBSSports.com, however, he believes an SEC network, while still unknown exactly what it will consist of, would not be worth as much as the Big Ten Network, which currently has 51 million subscribers.

"The Big Ten benefitted from being the first mover," the source said. "It also will depend on the game inventory and rate charged to understand what distribution challenges the SEC will face."

It's unknown if the SEC will be an equity partner in the channel, like the Big Ten, or if the conference will sell the rights to ESPN for an additional fee. The SEC could use the Big Ten model, where the league is a 49 percent owner of Big Ten Network with Fox and shares in its revenue or the Pac-12, which owns all of its regional networks, the SportsBusiness Journal reported.

The SEC currently is renegotiating its deal with CBS and ESPN with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri. SEC's athletic directors said the earliest an SEC network could be launched would be 2014.

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said an SEC network would benefit the league in much the same way the Big Ten Network has done for its member schools.

"I know it has provided tremendous growth [for the Big Ten] as far as exposure, recruiting around the country, the ability to promote other content from an institution other than athletics and that revenue has been significant," Alden said. "If you look at that model and knowing the SEC has a tremendous footprint, as big or bigger than the Big Ten, it would seem to me if a model would be out there, it would have tremendous impact on a league as strong as the SEC."

The SEC's athletic directors said Slive has been very careful with sharing information about the future network.

"I think the value of the SEC is such that's going to command a big platform," Bjork said. "It's going to command dollars that will add value to all our institutions.

"The good thing is we may make extra money ... the competitive landscape continues to evolve and it's all shared. It goes in one bucket."

Last year the SEC announced that each team received an SEC record $18.3 million per team in revenues. The addition of an SEC network would increase that number even more. How much? That's the X-factor.

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