ESPN's SEC Network: The LHN on Steroids

COLUMBIA, MO - SEPTEMBER 15: An SEC sign sits atop a yardage marker during the game between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)


To the surprise of absolutely no one, the SEC is partnering up with ESPN to produce the SEC Network, scheduled to debut in 2014.

It no doubt will bring millions annually to league members, and it will -- in a broad sense -- be built upon the template that ESPN used to create the Longhorn Network.

No word yet as to the projected revenues, but ESPN will have to shell out a lot of upfront cash to get the SEC channel off the ground. Like its deal with UT, ESPN will pay an exorbitant amount of money for the third tier media rights of league members.

Right now the SEC allows each University to control their third tier rights and like Texas, that usually includes one football game and several basketball contests. Not every SEC team takes advantage of this, but the big boys (Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida) all have regional agreements for various events and according to the Sports Business Daily, makes as much as $750,000 on a pay-per-view football game.

What complicates the building of the SEC Network for ESPN is their needing to negotiate will all the members over giving up their local rights. Again according to the Sports Business Daily, the Pac-12 agreed to pay $100 million over eight years to the companies that were controlling the league members third tier rights. The SEC third tier rights should bring more, perhaps much more, than that.

SYNERGY

Ah yes, the dreaded "S" word, that ESPN loves. They will approach this network like the LHN -- and really any and all of its properties -- by making it available across multiple platforms that in turn will make the network more attractive to potential sponsors.

IMG College holds the marketing rights to the SEC (as they did with Texas) and and it is expected that ESPN will make a similar deal here where IMG will retain a portion of the revenue for helping to oversee sales. But ESPN will own the network and control the SEC marketing rights. This means more cross-promotion and more sponsors buying into not just the TV network but also corporate sponsorships on the ground at each school and no doubt also working deals for "bundles" of advertising that include radio and internet as well.

As Longhorn fans who are still waiting for the LHN to be available in their area will tell you, "The Devil is in the Details," but since the SEC network won't launch until 2014 we have plenty of time to see how it falls together.

One thought about a possible connection to the Longhorn Network. AT&T U Verse has its strongest footprint throughout Southeast. I can't help but wonder if part of the reason they were finally willing to clear the Longhorn Network - reportedly at "sticker price" -- is that a deal with ESPN for the clearance of the SEC network on their system was talked about.

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