Ever since the Big Ten Conference announced the launch of its own television network, there has been much speculation as to whether or not the Southeastern Conference would follow suit with a network solely dedicated to conference schools and athletics.
The SEC receives more money from their football and basketball television contracts than any other athletic conference in the country. The conference earned $63.6 million in the 2007 fiscal year for their football and basketball contracts. Football was the key financier, earning $50.6 of the $63.6 million.
The conference's television contracts will expire at the end of the 2008 fiscal year. That leaves all of us wondering where we will be watching SEC sports in the future.
Currently the conference holds three separate deals for their football coverage. CBS has first rights to week-to-week picks. They have a few weekends in which they also have rights to air a doubleheader. The CBS deal is also an exclusive contract in that the SEC is the only conference CBS will air football games of.
The second contract is with ESPN. They receive rights to air a conference game each week after CBS's pick. They also receive a very limited number of games which they can select before the season, without having to wait for CBS to make their weekly pick. ESPN also receives the rights to any games after Raycom's pick (fourth and beyond) if they wish to.
The third contract is a syndication deal with Raycom Sports. Raycom receives the rights to air a conference game each week, after CBS and ESPN make their first and second choices.
Of course, there are numerous minor details that would take days for many of us to understand, but in a nutshell that is how the SEC's football television contract works out.
All three networks have interest in renewing their contracts with the conference and made presentations to Commissioner Mike Slive and all the university athletic directors and presidents. The conference, though, may have some different ideas.
There have been some reports that FOX has a lot of interest in taking over the exclusive major network contract that CBS currently holds. This seems fairly unlikely due to the rather poor college football coverage that FOX has and the longtime partnership in between CBS and the SEC. It would probably take a monumental bid from FOX to pull the contract away from CBS.
ESPN in all likelihood will keep their current contract, although it has been reported that they have interest in also acquiring the third week-to-week pick that Raycom Sports has the rights to.
After CBS and ESPN, things get much more interesting. Raycom also wants to extend its contract, but the conference has been considering launching its own television network. If it did, the games that Raycom currently air would be shown on the conference network.
There could also be competitors for Raycom, such as Fox Sports Net or CBS College Sports Network (CSTV), to take over the lower-tier conference games.
As another Bleacher Report article explained a few weeks ago, there are some big pros and cons to an SEC network. We will not know whether or not the conference is starting a network for months.
While we don't know for sure what channels we will be watching SEC sports on in the future, we do know they will be all over television, and the conference will still be making a ton of money.
SEC TV will continue to bring in millions, whether it is through a conference network and a few major network contracts, or a plethora of different major network and syndication contracts.