The SEC is having a big event
tomorrow soon on May 2 about the future of its media strategy. Here's what to look for.
The SEC Network: This is the big star of the show. We know it's finally going to be revealed
tomorrow on May 2.
Lots of ESPN: The Sports Business Journal has confirmed that ESPN is going to be the conference's partner in this thing. By comparison, Fox owns about half of the Big Ten Network while the Pac-12 has full ownership of its networks. ESPN is already the league's biggest media partner, and the two are going to be getting even more into business with each other.
A big payday announcement: It's been about a year and a half since the SEC added Texas A&M, an event that allowed it to reopen negotiations with CBS and ESPN over its television contracts. We haven't heard a peep on what kind of increase the conference will get from expansion, which is pretty remarkable given nearly a full year of periodic leaks about the SEC Network.
It's likely that
tomorrow on May 2 we'll finally find out how much expansion will pay. The number to beat is $20.8 million per team per year. That figure is what the Pac-12 contracts with Fox and ESPN average out to before even getting to the projected Pac-12 Network revenue. If the SEC somehow doesn't surpass that amount before getting into SEC Network money, it'll be a big disappointment.
A business model for the network: How and when exactly the SEC will extract money from its network is a big question. Big Ten schools get what's leftover after BTN expenses are paid and co-owner Fox gets its cut. The Pac-12 Networks' payout will be similar, except that there is no co-owner and schools initially don't receive any payouts due to startup costs.
It'll be interesting to see if the structure is anything like that of the Longhorn Network, the only similar network to date that ESPN has launched. Texas gets a guaranteed $300 million over 20 years, and it will receive 70% of profits once ESPN recoups its initial investments on the network. A contract like what the other two leagues' channels have will mean the SEC won't see significant income from the network for a couple of years. One like what the LHN has means it's Scrooge McDuck time from Day 1.
At least one carriage partner: On launch day, the Big Ten had DirecTV on board. The Pac-12 had Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox, and BrightHouse on board for its initial announcement. We'll probably hear about at least one partner who has agreed to carry the SEC Network.
The full range of carriage partners: With that said, don't expect all of the important players to be on board yet. It took the Big Ten more than a year to get its network on all of the relevant TV providers, and the Pac-12 Network still isn't on DirecTV. Some cable and satellite providers will be holding out, and Murphy's Law being what it is, yours will be one of them.
Programming information: It's the SEC Network. It'll run SEC programming. What else do you need to know? Seriously though, this is the sort of thing that will get hashed out between
tomorrow the announcement and the day the network goes live. Current and classic sports are a given, as are coach's shows, highlight-driven SportsCenter clones, and the SEC Storied documentary series. We'll have to wait to hear about anything else. We also probably won't hear about any staffing decisions either, though you can count on seeing plenty of Dave Neal on the SECN.
Details on the digital strategy: The SEC is no longer going to be partnering with XOS Digital, the company that made the underwhelming SEC Digital Network website. Presumably ESPN will be taking it over, something that should be an upgrade. Unfortunately, much more beyond that is probably an implementation detail that won't be ready for prime time just yet. That's too bad, because it's looking ever more like the "digital strategy" will simply be the "existence strategy" for what we now know as television networks in the future.
A 2013 launch for the network: Due to various contracts, this network was never going to have a chance to launch before 2014. That fact is probably a big reason why Mike Slive took his time with the negotiations. For all the planning that has gone into the SEC Network so far, it will take a lot more to actually get it off the ground. If we get an official launch date, which may or may not happen, it'll be next year.
In light of the bombing in Boston today, the SEC and ESPN have postponed this event.