Deal for SEC Network could reach 20 years

The SEC’s deal for its own television channel, to be announced next month, will likely be for between 15 and 20 years, according to sources.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive told Yahoo Sports last week the league would announce the deal in mid-April, once postseason basketball action ends. ESPN is expected to partner with the league.

Eyeing a 2014 launch, the SEC has worked patiently in recent months through what is the layered, complicated business of cable/satellite reach.

The SEC’s 14-team footprint reaches close to 30 million homes, plus the network will have access to alumni and college football fans across the country. ESPN has to sell it. To get the content it needs, the league must buy back its regional deals -- including IMG College, Learfield Sports, CBS Collegiate Sports Properties -- and repackage under the channel, Sports Business Journal reported in September. This process cost the Pac-12 roughly $100 million over eight years as part of its own channel.

This is a big venture, and the SEC has taken its time because it wants to ensure the distribution is spot-on and the programming is must-see (i.e. football/basketball games).

SBJ reported the network is expected to have headquarers in Charlotte.

Florida president Bernie Machen told the league might need until 2016 to fully realize the worth of the deal.

“If it goes big, it will be huge,” Machen said. “If it doesn’t, it won’t be. I think it will be huge.” 

The ACC also has expressed interest in developing its own channel. It’s uncertain whether ESPN -- which is already paying Texas a reported $11 million for the Longhorn Network -- wants to cannonball into the conference-network business or stop at the SEC. ESPN currently holds the ACC’s long-term media rights under a traditional television deal.

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