ESPN SEC-branded TV network deal in the works

Project X, as it has been dubbed, is the SEC’s new TV deal that is in the works.

My guess is that the SEC’s deal will be over somewhere around 15 years and easily eclipse the $5 billion dollar mark. If this is the case, each school will stand to bring in somewhere around $25 million a year (SEC schools made around $20 million in 2011). By comparison, the Big 10’s deal is worth about $24 million per year, and the PAC 12 nets the schools almost $20 million.

“It’s going to be big,” Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said Wednesday. “We don’t know what it is. But it’s going to be big.”

The SEC is currently in prime position to take full advantage of the money being thrown around and is negotiating with ESPN about an all SEC-branded channel that Ole Miss AD Bjork believes would be worth more than the Big 10 Network.

“Looking at the TV distribution and households were in now, I think it will be every bit as big as the Big Ten Network,” Bjork said. “What’s your distribution model? The footprints we’re in now, pretty much covers a big swath of the country. To me, the upside is tremendous.”

To expect that the SEC deal wouldn’t be worth as much as the Big 10 deals is lunacy, but an insider told that he believes the SEC deal won’t be as much as the Big 10’s deal, which currently has 51 million subscribers.

“The Big Ten benefitted from being the first mover,” the source said. “It also will depend on the game inventory and rate charged to understand what distribution challenges the SEC will face.”

I don’t think it’s hard to understand just how the SEC could be worth as much as the Big 10 currently.

Here are the average football viewers by conference according to Nielsen for 2011.

  1. SEC – 4,447,000
  2. Big 10 – 3,267,000
  3. ACC – 2,650,000
  4. Big 12 – 2,347,000
  5. PAC 12 – 2,108,000
  6. Big East – 1,884,000

Looking at those numbers, it’s easy to see that the SEC leads the way by far in college football viewers and an SEC channel will definitely draw a lot during the college football season, but obviously an all-SEC channel won’t be dedicated to just football right?

Here are the average basketball viewers by conference according to Nielsen.

  1. Big 10 – 1,496,000
  2. ACC – 1,247,000
  3. SEC – 1,222,000
  4. Big 12 – 1,069,000
  5. Big East – 1,049,000
  6. PAC 12 – 783,000

While the numbers aren’t substantially different in basketball, the Big 10 does have a decided income advantage.

Not to mention the SEC/CBS deal that was struck in 2008 pays an average of $55 million a year, but with the addition of the Texas and Missouri markets that price could go up by $10 million to $65 million a year. The SportsBusiness Journal reports that sources state that CBS believes the addition of the two schools does not change the number of viewers enough to warrant an increase, and that A&M and Missouri aren’t the draws that LSU, Alabama, and Florida are. CBS will have to argue that with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive considering that viewership in major markets like Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, and St. Louis will go up.

The SportsBusiness Journal also claims that the market has been reset since the original deal was struck 4 years ago. The PAC 12’s deal with ESPN and Fox for $250 million a year has changed the landscape of the TV deals, not to mention, while it should be worth more, the ACC’s renegotiated deal with ESPN went from $155 million to $240 million a year.

“I think the value of the SEC is such that’s going to command a big platform,” Ole Miss AD Bjork said. “It’s going to command dollars that will add value to all our institutions.”