What has been referred to only behind closed doors by vague names became a reality on Thursday afternoon in Atlanta.
"Today, we say goodbye Project X and hello to the SEC Network," Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive announced at a press conference in Atlanta.
ESPN and the SEC have extended their partnership through 2034. The deal is believed to be the longest in all of television and will include the creation of the SEC Network. The network will broadcast more than 1,000 live sporting events per year across both ESPN television networks and various digital platforms beginning with its targeted launch date of August 6th, 2014.
"The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms," Slive said. "We will increase exposure of SEC athletics programs at all 14 member institutions, as we showcase the incredible student-athletes in our league. The agreement for a network streamlines and completes an overall media rights package that will continue the SEC's leadership for the foreseeable future."
Forty-five SEC football games are scheduled to air on the network's various platforms, including three games per Saturday for 13 consecutive weeks during the season. Slive said that CBS will still have the first choice of games each week, but the SEC Network would then televise an early game, an afternoon game and a night game each week. The network will also carry approximately 100 men's basketball games, 60 women's basketball games, 75 baseball games, championship events from multiple sports and original content produced both by the SEC and the 14 individual member schools.
The first question for any such network is distribution agreements. Which cable and satellite providers will carry the network and where will it be available?
Justin Connolly, who will oversee the day-to-day operations of the network for ESPN, said that AT&T Uverse has already signed on as the first carrier of the network. As for other carriers, Connolly said, "we're still in the very early days" of those discussions.
"This is not a regional network," ESPN President John Skipper said. "This is a national network."
Connolly said "we will target the widest distribution possibel in the 11-state SEC footprint." He said the goal is to have similar distribution to ESPN in the 11 SEC States and distribution similar to ESPNU outside the league footprint. ESPN is carried in more than 100 million homes and ESPNU in approximately 75 million according to network officials.
No financial details were made available on Thursday, including the percentages of the network owned by ESPN and the SEC. It is unknown just how much money the network would be worth to the individual schools. The SEC's frequently asked questions release states only that "Each member institution has control and discretion on how they use any proceeds from their media rights."
The agreement is "really in the best interest of both of us," Slive said. "We're both happy."
Rivals.com will have continuing coverage from Atlanta throughout the day and PowerMizzou.com will have more coverage on what the network could mean for Missouri in the coming days.
Notable links on the SEC Network:
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