Very interesting. That explains why the formal name is the SEC ESPN Network. For comparison, the Pac-12 owns all of its networks, while the Big Ten owns about half of the BTN (Fox owns the rest).
It's a somewhat surprising move and somewhat not for the SEC not to own this thing. It's surprising because the SECN could become a very valuable entity, and the conference not owning any equity in it would be a big loss. However, the conference has been very conservative about the network process all along, and having ESPN own and run everything is a very conservative way to get into the game. Plus, it could be a hedge against the uncertain future of media. There may come a day down the line where conference networks as we know them are obsolete and owning one is a burden.
Mike Slive has made some fascinating moves with the network, and this might be the most fascinating that we know of. It very well could end up being the move that gets the most scrutiny over the years. It also presents a fairly big potential conflict of interest for the journalism side of ESPN, but that's nothing new with the WWL anyway.