It took less than a year for “Project X” to completely transform into the SEC Network with the newest joint venture between the Southeastern Conference and ESPN set to be announced at a special event on Tuesday in Atlanta, GA, according to a report released Friday by the SportsBusiness Journal.
Commissioner Mike Slive admitted to Yahoo! Sports in March that an announcement about the SEC Network would occur in the following month and that is exactly what will happen on April 16 at noon.
“The Southeastern Conference has completed the buy-back of its TV, digital and sponsorship rights from third parties, clearing the final hurdles to launch its TV channel with ESPN next year,” SBJ’s Michael Smith and John Ourand reported Friday. “[The SEC Network] will be a national channel, with broad distribution within the SEC’s territory and sports-tier carriage elsewhere.”
ESPN – through its network, ESPN2, ESPNU and the standalone SEC Network – will carry every conference football contest not chosen by CBS as its weekly game.
ESPN, which previously owned all of the SEC’s television rights, had sold third-tier access to CBS Collegiate Sports Properties, IMG College and Learfield Sports. Those rights included one football game, eight men’s basketball games and other non-revenue sports that ESPN did not choose to air. The network is currently in the process of buying back syndicated rights that it sold to Comcast SportsNet and FOX Sports Net.
In order to make the SEC Network a reality, ESPN needs to own all of the league’s games. It has also taken over the SEC’s corporate sponsorship program and will also acquire the league’s digital rights, which the SEC is buying back from XOS Digital.
The SEC Network will launch in August 2014 with each school likely receiving $8-10 million per year on a contract set to last 15-20 years.
Last season, two of the Florida Gators’ 12 football games and 12 of the school’s 30 basketball contests (regular season) were not carried on national networks.
UPDATE: ESPN and the SEC sent press releases announcing a joint press conference scheduled for noon on Tuesday. Florida president Bernie Machen, who is also the Chairman of the SEC’s Presidents & Chancellors, will be in attendance alongside Slive, ESPN president John Skipper, ESPN senior vice president of programming Justin Connolly and more than 30 head coaches from the SEC (football, basketball).