Like It Is:

New network will benefit SEC, ESPN most

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, August 14, 2014
Here is a look inside Arkansas' SEC Network control room. (photo courtesy Mike Waddell)
Here is a look inside Arkansas' SEC Network control room. (photo courtesy Mike Waddell)

We are privileged to be born in America, but we are blessed to live in the South where football is Saturday's church.

So perhaps today's launching of the SEC Network is the greatest thing to happen to television since 1954, when the Rose Bowl Parade was broadcast in color.

Just how wonderful it is for fans of SEC schools -- and is it worth it -- remains to be seen, but it is obviously set up to be a major financial boost for the SEC and its 14 members.

When the first program airs at 5 p.m. today, it will be available in more than 90 million homes and 75 million have already subscribed. That's 3 million more subscribers than the NFL Network, 15 million more than the Big Ten and 49 million more than the Pacific-12, which is still squabbling with Direct TV.

It has been reported that ESPN will charge $1.40 for subscribers within its footprint. The footprint is basically all of the South plus Texas, Missouri and Kansas because that is where the schools and the majority of their fans are. Apparently fans who live outside the footprint will pay about 26 cents a month.

Keep in mind that is paid every month, so estimates are the SEC's revenue are about to jump $500 million to $600 million every year, or approximately $35 million more for every member school every year.

Real money. The green kind with lots of zeroes.

Yet, nothing is guaranteed.

Patrick Seitz of Investor's Business Daily has written a story that most Americans are about tapped out on what they will pay for entertainment. It notes that in the past five years families are paying 12 to 20 percent more for TV while income has fallen 6 percent when adjusted for inflation.

Home movie purchases and movie rentals are down, and so is movie theater attendance. Football ticket sales were down at many schools last season, and not even Alabama at Arkansas has sold out yet.

Paying $1.40 doesn't sound like much, but who thinks it will stay that low? ESPN was dirt cheap as a start-up but today, according to Forbes magazine, it garners around $5 every month from every subscriber.

ESPN is a beautiful business model for ESPN. It gets paid to broadcast and gets to sell advertising.

Since it began broadcasting in 1980, it has grown into the most powerful sports entity in the world. More powerful than the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NCAA and all its members combined.

ESPN is not only paying the bills, but huge salaries and bonuses.

The SEC Network isn't just about football. It is about all SEC sports, but football will tote the note just as it does on every major college campus.

Also keep in mind that ESPN stands for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, which is about entertaining not news gathering. What you see and hear won't be all pablum, but there will more than enough for everyone.

It is a business where reporting is too often opinionated. Where the bottom line is always the bottom line.

ESPN may have too much power, but it does a great job of entertaining sports fans and they already have 34 SEC football games scheduled.

Other programming will include four hours of the same Paul Finebaum show that has been on radio for years, and he'll be taking calls from some of sports' greatest fanatics.

It also will include SEC Nation, which is essentially a copy of ESPN's College Game Day, SEC Now (more talk), SEC Storied (similar to ESPN's 30 for 30 series, and an early view of a couple of them was impressive) and Film Room, which is a different coach doing an X and O session for fans.

That's a lot of SEC sports and a lot of hours to fill since it will air 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for $1.40 a month. For now.

Sports on 08/14/2014