SEC television network announcement next week

SEC television network announcement next week

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]espite its “Project X” code name, it hasn’t exactly been a secret, and it’s not quite official yet, but the SEC is set to announce the formation of its TV network with ESPN next week.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

A formal announcement of the yet-to-be-named network will come at an event Tuesday in Atlanta, according to the Sports Business Journal.

The network is expected to launch in August, 2014. With ESPN as the primary broadcast partner, the SEC channel will be available nationally, with broad distribution in the SEC region and sports-tier carriage elsewhere.

Last week, the conference cleared its biggest hurdle to the network’s creation when it reacquired third-tier TV rights. The conference also regained control of its digital and sponsorship rights, allowing ESPN to have the SEC’s television, digital and sponsorship rights under one umbrella.

ESPN is in the process of regaining its syndicated rights from regional sports networks ComcastNet Sports and Fox Sports Net. Both Comcast and Fox currently buy SEC games from ESPN, but the Comcast deal ends after the 2013-14 school year and the Fox deal ends after the 2014-15 school year.

That means, with the exception of CBS’s one game each week, ESPN will control the rights to all of the conference’s live games. That gives the network important leverage in distribution negotiations, which has proven to be the most difficult part of launching the Big Ten and Pac-12’s national networks.

The Big Ten Network went through difficult carriage battles, particularly with Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the SBJ reports. The Pac-12 Networks still doesn’t have a deal in place with DirecTV, the nation’s biggest satellite distributor, DirecTV.

Financial details aren’t yet know, but school officials have said previously that the deal is expected to be “every bit as big as the Big Ten Network.” Excluding Nebraska, Big Ten members have received $7.2 million and $7.9 million from the Big Ten Network for the past two years, respectively.

Photo credit: Dave Martin / AP

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