As they are wont to do, ESPN has teamed up with another major sports property — this time around, the Southeastern Conference — to create a stand-alone 24-hour network dedicated solely to all things SEC, the SEC Network.
It isn’t the Mothership’s first foray into the 24-hour model — that would be the Longhorn Network which is focused on all things Texas Longhorns sports, and, depending on who you ask has been a moderate failure — but is the first time that a major conference has essentially signed over the rights to its programming to a single entity, and in the process, also signed away much of the autonomy in how the content it creates is used and delivered to the consuming public.
ESPN already had a broadcast rights deal in place with the SEC, which nominally has been extended through 2034 with the creation of the new network. Under the terms of the extended agreement, the new SEC Network will televise up to 1,000 live events each calendar year, with 450 of those events being the television network and the rest broadcast on the network’s digital properties. More importantly, however, for college football fans’ purposes, 45 SEC games during the season will be broadcast — averaging out to around three games per week.
It’s an interesting relationship which takes the notion of partnerships between major media properties and “amateur” athletic conferences to a whole new level. While the money figures surrounding the deal have yet to surface, it’s certainly reasonable to assume they will dwarf the giant 20-year, $300 million dollar deal which was established with the University of Texas to create the Longhorn Network.
As an aside, it’s a classic case of the rich getting richer off of one another’s success while the rest of the football nation takes a de facto step backwards in their wake. The SEC is continuing to separate itself from the rest of the college football pack primarily because they can and any arbitrary NCAA rules which may stand in the way of such disproportionate financial gain are so easily side-stepped.
Get used to it folks — the SEC will be in your face more than you’ve ever imagined.
Now, that has a ring to it.