Cable deal to help SEC go national

HOOVER, Ala. --- A big banner hung at one end of the second floor hallway of the Wynfrey Hotel on Wednesday displaying the familiar SEC logo with ESPN prominently displayed just below.


Make no mistake about it. The Southeastern Conference and the self-anointed World Wide Leader in Sports are joined together at the hip.

And they couldn't be more thrilled about it.

It's a synergy of a powerhouse athletic conference with a sports TV network that is ever present with its multiple cable channels not to mention sports bars, a magazine and a popular Web site.

Under a new 15-year deal SEC commissioner Mike Slive struck last year with ESPN and CBS worth approximately $3 billion, the SEC might not have launched its own channel like the Big Ten Network, but its games will be seen far and wide and early (and late) and often.

"Luckily for us we were able to convince the commissioner that we could build a better mousetrap in terms of exposure and revenue and serving the fans by doing it this way instead of doing a network," Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president for college sports programming, said Wednesday when he was joined by several network executives as SEC Media Days opened.

That joint SEC-ESPN logo seen in the hallway will be seen on conference games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU this fall. The SEC will continue its national Saturday afternoon game of the week on CBS.

Asked about other conferences being able to keep up with a conference that already has won the last three college football national titles and now will have even more exposure, Slive smiled Wednesday at SEC Media Days.

"We have become a national brand," Slive said.

"Many conferences, the intensity of their following is more regional. With that has come some benefits for us."

Like having over 5,500 events carried on ESPN networks during the 15 years of the deal - an average of one per day.

Every SEC football game that the conference owns the right to will be televised including an expanded over-the-air syndication package and 13 games on cable on Fox Sports Net and CSS.

The "SEC Network" -- ESPN's Regional Television's over-the-air syndication network that replaces Raycom -- will span not only all nine states in the SEC footprint, but is slated to be shown in Big 12 (Houston, Dallas, San Antonio), Big Ten (Detroit, Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Indianpolis) and Big East (Pittsburgh and New York) markets as well as Los Angeles. It will be shown in Atlanta on Peachtree TV.

The 73-market network will nearly double the audience from last year and cover more than 50 percent of the country.




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