The day before the conference’s championship game, SEC commissioner Mike Slive, ESPN Senior Vice President Justin Connolly and others sat a table to make announcements about the much-anticipated national SEC television network, which will debut in August of 2014. The network will be owned by ESPN, but profit will be split evenly with the conference.
The biggest news centered on particulars pertaining to what is now being dubbed “SEC Nation,” the conference’s College Gameday-style pregame show. The show will run from 10 AM-noon every Saturday morning and will set the table for weekly triple-headers every Saturday on the SEC Network. The first SEC Nation show will originate from Columbia, S.C. on August 28th, 2014 for South Carolina’s opening season game against Texas A&M. That first Thursday will actually feature a double-header, after South Carolina and Texas A&M play Vanderbilt will face Temple in the nightcap. Slive boasted that it was the first primetime double-header any conference network has put on television that features three teams that were in a bowl game the year before.
After that, SEC Nation will hit the road again in the same weekend two days later when they’ll be live from Auburn AL. for that day’s game featuring Auburn and Ole Miss.
The conference did not announce a full roster of talent for SEC Nation, but they did announce a host, one that is synonymous with exciting college football games, ESPN play-by-play man Joe Tessitore.
“If you follow it closely enough, you’ll probably realize it’s probably the greatest soap opera in all of sports,” Tessitore said. “You have the characters, the stories, the ups and downs. There is no off season in the SEC, we have found that out through the years. This is the strongest conference in College Football. And it’s not because of seven straight BCS titles. It’s because of what it is from top to bottom.”
Tessitore is one of the best and most professional talents ESPN has at their disposal and will bring instant credibility to the show. The conference plans to make further talent announcements shortly after the 2014 BCS national championship game on January 6th.
Other programming of note, the previously announced Paul Finebaum radio show will syndicate live on SEC Network daily. Finebaum’s show is appointment listening to many in SEC country with his array of colorful callers. The four-hour block of programming Finebaum locks up in the doldrums of early/late afternoon programming is a big get for the network.
“Paul has been a great addition at ESPN,” Connolly said. “and he’s going to be a big part of the SEC Network as well in addition to Joe. So we’re thrilled about that.”
The conference also announced other original programming. The popular SEC-centric documentary style series “SEC Storied” is getting a shot in the arm from the network. The show’s allotment of four shows per year now jumps to 10 with the advent of the SEC network, and the conference announced two working titles already in production, as well as showing footage.
“Bo, Barkley and the Big hurt” will center around three of Auburn’s most famous athletes: Football/baseball player Bo Jackson, basketball player Charles Barkley and baseball player Frank Thomas. The preview footage showed a sideline camera shot of Auburn’s improbable field goal return for a touchdown to defeat Alabama in the 2013 Iron Bowl complete with Bo Jackson’s reaction and stunned disbelief. It will debut on ESPN on February 24th.
“Superfans,” the working title of the other announced SEC Storied documentary will chronicle the colorful fans of the SEC and the footage shown was that of political analyst James Carville talking about his love for the LSU Tigers from his home.
Beyond that, Slive promised 1,000 live events as the low watermark for live events on the network and hopes to eclipse that within the first year.
The one thing that was missing from the SEC network press conference was any announcement of carriage deals with a cable or satellite providers. That can be interpreted in different ways. It may signal the SEC is playing hardball, and keeping negotiations with carriers close to the vest. On the other hand, it could mean the conference is having trouble negotiating with carriers. Reports have the conference pursuing a fee upwards of $0.80/month per subscriber in the 11 SEC states. The PAC-12 and Big Ten networks each collect near that amount in their respective regions. Projections of out-of-region subscriber fees have the SEC going after a $0.15/month rate.
Instead of a formal carriage announcement, conference brass again pushed for fans to implore their cable or satellite providers to pick the network up via the website GetSECNetwork.com.
To end things, the network debuted its new marketing blitz including three commercial spots that ESPN will push heavily during bowl season, especially in games that involve SEC teams. Below is one.
The AD campaign implores the audience to “take it all in.” On August 21st, 2014 we’ll finally be able to.