SEC Will Launch TV Conference Network With ESPN After Buying Back Third-Tier Rights
The SEC "cleared its biggest obstacle" in its bid to launch a TV channel when it "reacquired the third-tier TV rights from IMG College, Learfield Sports and CBS Collegiate Sports Properties" in recent weeks, according to Smith & Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The SEC and ESPN plan to launch the channel in August '14, and a formal announcement of the network is expected tomorrow. The conference over the next 15 months will "work with ESPN to build out its operation, possibly in Charlotte at ESPN Regional Television, and hire a staff, all while beginning talks with distributors." The third-tier rights "represent one football game, eight men’s basketball games, baseball, women’s basketball and all other nonrevenue sports that are not picked up by ESPN or a syndicated partner." The deal is an "important development because it means that ESPN will control the entire inventory of SEC football games, with the exception of CBS’s single game each week." That gives ESPN "a lot of flexibility to use specific games in markets where it’s having trouble gaining distribution." The rightsholders agreed to "give up TV rights valued at roughly" $15M a year. Sources said that those rightsholders in return will "lessen the guarantees to their schools by the same amount" -- a little more than $1M a year for each school -- "for the next several years." The conference also "gained control of its digital and sponsorship rights." That will "enable ESPN to have TV, digital and sponsorship rights for the conference under one umbrella." Digital rights for the SEC are "coming back from XOS Digital, the company that created the SEC Digital Network in 2009, for an undisclosed sum." Meanwhile, ESPN is "in the process of regaining its syndicated rights from Comcast SportsNet and Fox Sports Net." Both currently "buy SEC games from ESPN." The syndicated deal with CSN "ends after the 2013-14 school year," while Fox' deal "ends after the 2014-15 school year" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/15 issue).