Mike Slive was in Nashville over the weekend on official basketball business, but managed to drop a minor nugget that will have a major impact on his conference and the way it is consumed, especially in football. Silve told Pat Forde of Yahoo! that the league expects to make a formal announcement on the long-rumored SEC Network in the middle of next month.
As we know, two leagues are already swimming in waters the SEC is preparing to splash into. What we don't know for sure yet is which league's model the SEC will emulate. Most industry experts believe the SEC will mirror the Big Ten, who splits BTN 51/49 with Fox, as opposed to the Pac-12, who owns its national network and six regional networks outright. The SEC is expected to partner with ESPN and base the network out of Charlotte.
The SEC doesn't have the geographic footprint of the Big Ten or Pac-12, but its strength has always resided in its ability to draw viewers away from the South. That's how the SEC became the highest-rated conference once again in 2012, by beating other conferences on their turf.
That national appeal is what makes the idea of a conference network so, well, appealing to Mike Slive's league. The Big Ten Network reportedly draws $1 per subscriber per month for those living within the Big Ten's footprint, and 30 cents per subscriber per month for those outside the Midwest. The SEC is widely expected to better those figures when its network launches.
First, the league must buy back its third-tier rights, for football that means pay-per-view and syndicated games that don't get picked up by CBS or ESPN. That process is expected to be completed in time for a reported August 2014 launch, although we'll see what Slive has to say in next month's announcement.
Once that work is complete, the league will be free to sign a contract lasting an expected 15-to-20 years that will send the league into the next financial stratosphere.
“If it goes big, it will be huge,” Florida president Bernie Machen told CBS Sports. “If it doesn't, it won't be. I think it will be huge.”