SBD/July 16, 2014/Media

SEC Network Will Not Be Investigative, But Will Cover "Unflattering" Topics

Finebaum said his show doesn't limit itself to SEC discussions
The SEC Network launches on Aug. 14, and how the channel covers its namesake conference "could be telling in what's highlighted and what's not," according to Jon Solomon of CBSSPORTS.com. ESPN and conference officials stress the net "will report on unflattering news, but won't be investigating topics." ESPN Senior VP/Programming Justin Connolly said, "Our focus is going to be on reporting news, making sure it gets covered. But we are not an investigative journalism network and we're not necessarily out there with the same news infrastructure as ESPN to break stories or go deep into layers of stories. Yet at the same time when stories break, we're going to report on it and make sure fans know about it." ESPN Senior VP/Programming Acquisitions Burke Magnus said the SEC understands "in order for this network to have credibility and authenticity, if it's not reporting a story about a player or a team or a circumstance that's important, that's a huge hit to what the promise of this network should be. We're not going to shy away from reporting the news, good or bad." Mississippi State President Mark Keenum, who is part of a "content committee" that meets regularly, said, "The network has to have latitude to cover all issues, the good and bad, and do it in a fair, objective manner. I think the presidents and chancellors understand that and are willing to accept that." Solomon noted the SEC "won't be the first major sports entity with a TV channel to navigate this tricky road." When the child sex abuse scandal hit Penn State in '11 "as a national story, the Big Ten Network ... was heavily criticized for its lack of initial coverage" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/15).

DOUBLE DUTY: SI.com's Richard Deitsch reported the TV simulcast of Paul Finebaum's radio show, which will air on SEC Net when the channel launches, will begin a "slow rollout this month" with an hour-long version on ESPNU at 4:00pm ET and a half-hour version on ESPN at 5:30pm. Finebaum said of his show's appeal beyond SEC cities, "Part of it is because of the conflict. ... If you are sitting in Ann Arbor or Palo Alto, you are interested because the SEC is a very big, national brand and we don’t limit it to the SEC. We are based in the South and that is our gravitational pull but I think we are doing a disservice if we don’t include the rest of the country on it." Finebaum this fall also will be part of "SEC Nation," which ESPN "hopes will be the SEC Network’s GameDay equivalent." Finebaum will join host Joe Tessitore and analysts Marcus Spears and Tim Tebow travelling "around SEC football sites throughout the fall." Finebaum: "If GameDay is at Oregon and we are at Alabama-Florida and if you are a fan of the SEC, you may flip around. I’m not saying viewers will do it all the time but there will be a lot on SEC Nation that is appealing" (SI.com, 7/14). Finebaum said that his radio show "will move back" to its previous time slot of 3:00-7:00pm on Aug. 11. In Birmingham, Bob Carlton noted the four-hour show "began airing an hour earlier when he moved to Charlotte to join ESPN Radio last August, and it went off the air at 5 p.m. in Alabama and other markets in the Central time zone." Finebaum said, "It was a little frustrating going off the air at 5 o'clock. Obviously, in Birmingham and other cities, people were just getting off work. I felt we were starting an hour early and ending an hour early" (AL.com, 7/15).

THE MORE THE MERRIER
: In Birmingham, Creg Stephenson noted the SEC and ESPN yesterday announced plans for "SEC Network +," which "promises live and on-demand coverage of more than 550 digital exclusive sporting events." Among those are "volleyball and soccer, a partial schedule of which the league announced" yesterday. SEC Network + -- accessible through SECNetwork.com or via the WatchESPN app -- also will "feature replays of events first aired live on the SEC Network television or the SECNetwork.com live stream." In addition, "video clips from games and studio programs and other video projects will be available." Meanwhile, the new SECSports.com launched yesterday, with "video and other news from SEC Football Media Days" (AL.com, 7/15).
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