SEC Network Set to Launch Aug. 21, 2014; Can It Succeed?

By M. Shannon Smallwood
SEC Network
Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

The final day of SEC Media Days featured a some of the greatest the conference had to offer in the likes of Nick Saban, Les Miles, Mark Richt, A.J. McCarron and Aaron Murray. But the news of the day belonged to Justin Connolly as he announced the SEC Network will officially launch on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 at 7 p.m. EST.

“We are 399 days, nine hours and roughly 43 minutes away from the network launch,” Connolly said this morning. “We will use every second of that time to create, build, rehearse and tinker in the pursuit of greatness. Our focus and mission remains consistent with what we outlined in Atlanta when we announced the network on May 2nd. We will bring the passion and excellence of the SEC on screen and serve fans anytime, anywhere.”

Connolly went on to discuss specific details in which he called the three-pillars of the construction of the new network in content, distribution and engagement.

“The content pillar is broad and multi-layered,” Connolly said. “This includes working collaboratively to schedule and produce content from studios and venues across the country. College triple-headers each Saturday will anchor the season from week-to-week. We will elevate those games with an on-campus presence and a two-hour on-site studio show from a different SEC location each weekend. Taking the network on the road throughout the fall will help enhance the connectivity with fans across the conference.

“In the distribution arena, success is the product of patience and persistence. Those are two virtues which are often in short supply. Patience is particularly difficult when the news cycle is momentary and we can keep tabs and keep score on an expedited or constant basis.

“The third pillar, or the special teams phase, is what I would call engagement. We must connect with the students, alumni, faculty, fans and partners to fuel the flames of SEC fandom in every corner of this country. There is a broad cross-section of current and future stakeholders, and we want to stoke their passion for the SEC.”

Very eloquently stated, but, if you are like this guy, what the heck does all that mean?

In short, Connolly and his staff have a great deal of work to do to get this new network to the standards the SEC has on the field. He seems to have great focus and a fantastic vision, but Connolly knows for this network to be successful, they have to finalize the content so they can sell to distribute it to the point 500 million (excessive exaggeration: perhaps) crazed college football fans who are actively plugged in and providing sustainability. Right now, only AT&T UVerse and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative have signed deals.

In the past 20 years, though, the SEC hasn’t missed on anything. This is the biggest project they have taken on and you know all parties involved will do everything possible to make it a historic part of football, sports and entertainment.

Needless to say, the next 12 months should be very interesting and the 2014 edition of SEC Media Days will probably be in Charlotte, N.C., so all in the world can tour the headquarters of what could shape the broadcast of college football and college sports for the next generation.

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M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association.

Follow him @woodysmalls.

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