The SEC Network will happen. It’s not a matter of if but when.
After the success of the Big 10 Network, the SEC has looked at the idea of doing their own network. Not one of those that is based on local affiliates as it is right now but a physical network on one single channel. Well, two if you count the HD channel that will be inevitable.
Sports Business Daily reports that the channel is expected to launch in August 2014 and the SEC will be partnering with ESPN.
There is a catch before anything can happen and that has to do with rights for games.
The SEC needs the local TV rights back from the schools to give the channel part of the content it needs. Those rights belong to the schools’ rights holders — IMG College, Learfield Sports and CBS Collegiate Sports Properties — so the SEC must negotiate with them to acquire those rights before launching a channel.
Those local rights amount to one football game per school and roughly six to eight basketball games for each school, plus a host of nonrevenue sports events including baseball, softball and soccer.
This likely means that after the channel launches, all of the non-conference basketball games that would have aired on the UK IMG Sports Network on the local affiliates and FOX Sports South will likely be on this channel. I could be wrong in my interpretation of that and reading too much into it.
One thing is for sure, sports like baseball, softball, volleyball, etc. will have more television exposure.
It is expected that the ESPN Regional Television offices in Charlotte will be the headquarters for the new network.
What is interesting about this new report was that Comcast reached out to ESPN about turning their CSS channel into an SEC Network. Those talks didn’t go anywhere.