SBJ/June 26 - July 2, 2006/This Weeks News

Big 12 and SEC next to face network vs. rights fee decision

As television contracts expire in the coming years, each college conference will have to decide whether to follow the Big Ten’s lead and create a television network, or stick with the traditional rights-fee deals.

The Big 12, whose ABC/ESPN deal expires after the 2007-08 season, is next, with the Southeastern Conference on deck a year after that.

Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg said that he wasn’t surprised by the formation of the Big Ten Channel and that his league is exploring all of its options. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive was similarly noncommittal, while expressing some interest.

“We’ve been talking about [an SEC channel] over the last several years and we’ve had conversations with people as a concept,” Slive said. “We have to ask whether an SEC channel enhances what we’re doing. We have to compare that to the very significant distribution we already have.”

But are there enough viewers for five or six conference networks? Don’t bet against it, said TV consultant Mike Trager.

“Every time there’s expansion, everyone asks how it’s going to be absorbed,” Trager said. “And somehow, the public absorbs it.

“The marketplace will determine when it’s too much, and it hasn’t happened yet.”

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