The Southeastern Conference is next up on the Media Merry-Go-Round and while CBS is reported to be reluctant to increase their payout with the addition of A&M and Missouri, a new SEC Channel could open the vault.
First up is a renegotiation of the CBS pact for its Saturday national broadcasts. The network sees little added value in Missouri and A&M, since the SEC games are already broadcast in their dominant markets, and the network is arguing that teams like LSU, Alabama and Florida establish the value of the league -- and that the newcomers add very little right now.
The SEC meanwhile believes that the new deals struck by the Pac-12 and the ACC have changed the playing field and boosted the value of all live college football.
CBS and the SEC are expected to come to an agreement soon, and then the league will turn its attention to ESPN
According to the Sports Business Journal, the league is looking to create an SEC Channel with ESPN.
Currently the SEC is receiving $150 million a year from ESPN for secondary rights. The contract runs through 2023. ESPN has control over all inventory not taken by CBS, which was written in to discourage the SEC from starting its own channel.
Now with a Brave New (Playoff) World about to take over college football in 2014, the SEC is ready to create another revenue stream for its expanded league. There are three basic templates that the SEC can use for its channel.
1) They could partner with ESPN -- keeping 49% of the channel and letting ESPN handle most of the heavy lifting for a split of the profits. This is the Big 10 Network model.
2) They could keep ownership and make distribution deals with ESPN or Fox -- much as the Pac-12 has done for its regional networks.
3) They could follow the Longhorn Network example and sell the rights to ESPN for a fee.
The SEC Network will have a target date of 2014. That's when ESPN gets back the syndication rights it sub-licensed to regional sports networks operated by Fox Sports and Comcast.
It would seem that ESPN would love to have total ownership of an SEC network and simply write the league a check annually. It would also seem that this is one reason why ESPN is adamant about setting a price point for the Longhorn Network before it expands into other conferences.
ESPN and Texas are working on getting two or three Texas football games on the LHN this fall, hopefully to bring pressure to cable and satellite providers - specifically Time Warner Cable - to come to a distribution deal, sooner rather than later.
Both ESPN and Texas believe that eventually "The pain will be worth the gain,"
Meanwhile the SEC is a very interested bystander concerning Longhorn Network negotiations.