Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 2
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

USA Today group wants piece of SEC action

USA Today Sports Media Group this fall will make a significant push into college football content with several new digital initiatives, including a portal devoted exclusively to the Southeastern Conference.

Spanning The SEC, debuting today, will combine national coverage of the conference from USA Today Sports Media Group and parent company Gannett Co., along with local-level coverage from several Gannett-owned newspapers and TV stations. The portal will combine text, photos, social media content and material from sister USA Today Sports Media Group product For The Win, as well as video developed in collaboration with partner NeuLion, including two planned weekly whip-around shows. Team-level coverage will be offered for all 14 SEC universities.

New USA Today Sports Media Group digital efforts include Spanning The SEC, a portal devoted to conference coverage.
In addition to on-field coverage of the 2014 season, Spanning The SEC will offer recruiting coverage.

USA Today Sports Media Group in March struck a strategic partnership with NeuLion, which supports more than 170 NCAA digital properties, including eight of the SEC’s 14 schools. Spanning The SEC represents one of the first major products of that alliance.

Dave Morgan, USA Today Sports Media Group president, described Spanning The SEC as a template for other sport- and league-specific digital destinations the company is developing. Spanning The SEC also represents a counterpunch to the SEC Network, recently launched via a long-term partnership between the conference and ESPN.

“I think this shows that he who owns the media rights is not the only solution for keeping up with what’s going on in the SEC,” Morgan said. “This is going to leverage a lot of strengths between our partnership with NeuLion, our national assets and our local assets, and really get deep into what’s happening within the conference. We think this will really show the breadth of our capabilities in our commitment to product development.”

Spanning The SEC will be advertiser-supported, with Dish Network, Dickies, John Deere, Amway and Degree signing on as early sponsors. USA Today Sports Media Group is also marketing a presenting-level sponsorship for the portal. Some of the companies are also involved in the rival SEC Network on TV, including Dish Network, which is distributing the network.

The USA Today group has also developed two new college football polls, which will become additional content elements. The USA Today College Football Fan Index, debuting this week,will measure social media activity and responses from weekly themed fan surveys for more than 100 Division I schools and issue rankings for the “most passionate” fan bases in the sport. The weekly results, to be released Thursdays, will carry a presenting sponsorship from Degree.

A fan poll launching Sunday will tabulate consumer opinion on the top football teams, and include a title sponsorship from Amway. The fan poll will be separate from the USA Today’s coaches poll, also sponsored by Amway, and the fan rankings will not carry weight in determining who plays in the new College Football Playoff debuting this year.

But the fan pool will provide a large-scale look at who fans believe should be playing, and how that might diverge from the official rankings.

“This will work in collaboration with the coaches poll and help bring to life a longtime USA Today property,” Morgan said. “Fans are smarter than ever, and we think this will be of great interest to see how the sentiment plays out.”