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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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TV network gives SEC plenty of funny money

Last Modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 10:46 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Having done due diligence in studying up on the SEC Network for you, I can safely report that much of it is mind-boggling, particularly the cash money involved.

But the most amazing thing about it all to me is that the SEC Network will be available, right here, on Lake Charles and Sulphur cable systems from the moment it signs on at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Remember that in our corner of the state we’re traditionally a programming wasteland, accustomed to being denied and oppressed to the point of having to beg, borrow and drive to Lafayette to get New Orleans Saints games ON NETWORK TV for lo those many years.

But Suddenlink’s corporate office came through on this one. You won’t miss a thing.

Not a shock. Eventually it was gong to happen. But I had the over/under as the summer of 2016.

If you’re wondering, on Lake Charles and Sulphur systems, it’s cable channel 34 for the regular version, channel 800 for the hi-def feed (with a Suddenlink box).

Don’t feel too special that it’s already available in the Lake Area.

It’s hard to call it a fledgling network, even if it wasn’t under the big ESPN umbrella.

The cash is already rolling in and it hasn’t even gone on the air yet.

Even the Southeastern Conference office in Birmingham is a little surprised that tomorrow’s start-up will already be available in 90 million homes.

Each programming provider negotiated with the SEC Network for its own deal.

But, according to SportsBusiness Daily, the network for the most part is getting right at $1.30 per customer per month from providers in the 11 states where the SEC has a footprint.

One dollar and 30 cents doesn’t sound like that much.

Until you multiply it X 90 million.

Per month.

All of sudden, you’re talking real money.

For reference, according to The Motley Fool — which despite the name is a respected business publication — that’s almost twice what the Big Ten and Pac-12 networks (which aren’t affiliated with ESPN) are charging per customer.

It’s still a little misleading.

For those providers in the 39 states outside the SEC footprint, it’s a mere 25 cents a month per subscriber (and — light bulb! — I think I suddenly understand why SEC Commissioner Mike Slive was so eager to get Texas A&M into the conference so Texas could pay full freight).

But, as Motley Fool points out, even if only half the 90 million households are in the SEC footprint, that’s roughly $700 million per year right there.

Throw in the two bits per month from outside the league and you tack on another $130 million.

That, according to Motley, is more than three times as much as what the Big Ten and Pac-12 networks bring in from subscribers and almost as much as the well-established ESPN2.

And it should be all pure profit as analysts say the overheard (programming costs) should be covered by ad revenue.

Motley says at worst profits will be a 50-50 split between ESPN and the SEC ­— and, given Slive’s negotiating skills — probably more, maybe as much as 70-30 the SEC’s way.

Even at the most conservative figure, that’s something north of $400 million for the conference ­— or an extra $28 million or so per school.

Last year when they split the pot, each school got $21 million from the conference office. Now they’re looking at $49 million.

No wonder Slive was smiling so while talking about it at SEC Media Days earlier this month.

And it really is an extra $28 million — it’s not really siphoning off money from other sources.

The only TV deal the SEC lost was that 11:30 a.m. syndicated game done by Lincoln Financial. Also gone are the handful of pay-per-view games a few schools would do on their own, but that’s got to be a pittance compared to this windfall.

And that’s basically the kind of non-headline games the SEC Network is paying so heavily for.

CBS still has its deal with the SEC, and still has first choice of the best game every week. ESPN (the Mothership) still has second choice and ESPN2 will get the third-best game.

The SEC Network, though starting with a splash with a Thursday night Texas A&M at South Carolina game on Aug. 28, will basically get what’s left over for its three games per Saturday — 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. (sometimes 6:30 p.m.).

It will also have an SEC-specific, on-campus pregame show, which will go up against ESPN’s popular GameDay on Saturday mornings.

LSU’s debut on the SEC Network, for instance, comes against Sam Houston State on Sept. 6. Not exactly must-see TV. But I’m also guessing that it lowers the odds that Tiger Stadium has to open for business at 11 a.m. very often, no matter the opponent.

When it was Lincoln Financial’s wake-up call, that network was going to take the Tigers when it made sense, and it had nowhere else to put them.

The SEC Network will have three options for those kind of games, and would likely prefer to let LSU be night owls with an always-better telecast from Tiger Stadium after dark.

More interesting, perhaps, will be the daily programming, which signs on tomorrow with a special 3-hour edition of “SEC Now” — the network’s version of an all-SEC SportsCenter.

Maybe it just gives the rest of the country another reason to hate the SEC — now 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the SEC schools and fans have to be giggling like schoolgirls.

l

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at

shobbs@americanpress.com


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