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The SEC, Television, And You!

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Imagine what would happen if the Florida-Kentucky game last week was not on TV or the LSU-Alabama game was limited to just those two states. We would probably see people marching on SEC Headquarters to demand those games be seen on national TV.

I bring this up because of the situation that Arizona State and Oregon will be in Saturday. Despite the game being a matchup of both Pac-10 and national championship proportions, it will not be seen nationally. Instead, Oregon State-USC will be on ABC and Washington State-Cal will be on FSN. How is this possible?

The Pac-10 has their schedule locked and unlike the SEC policy of a 12 or 6 day selection (which upsets some people) cannot make changes. From Addicted to Quack...

You see, ABC and Fox Sports chose their matchups for this weekend before the season started, when they thought that SC and Cal would be the leagues best teams.  No problem, right?  Surely in a circumstance like this, one that is clearly in the best interest of the league, one of these games could be switched?  Nope.  Because these schools "have already been promised TV money, and it wouldn't be fair to not give them that."  So the Pac-10 is not going to give fans the best possible product.

Heads would roll in the SEC if this happened, but thanks to having a national TV partner (CBS), a national cable partner (ESPN), and a good-ole boy partner (Lincoln Financial), at least two teams are seen nationally and a third gets looks around the east coast.

But the SEC is already thinking beyond when their television contracts expire. With elite communications schools at Florida and Georgia, plus great media operations at LSU and Tennessee, it would be easy for the SEC to have their own TV channel. It would be a way to keep up with the Joneses (the Big Ten Network), but in an age where state universities are suffering through budget cuts, it would also be a promotional tool.

"No question, there would be football and basketball on it," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said recently at the SEC spring meetings. "I think there's something like 8,720 hours of programming available. Obviously, part of that would have to be significant football and basketball. The other piece that our presidents and chancellors are very interested in is it would create an outlet for non-athletic content from our universities, which have good communication schools. There are a lot of events on our respective campuses that might find their way onto an SEC network."

One of the reasons why the Big Ten Network should be successful is the fact that seven of the top-30 media markets are in their region. The SEC has six (seven if you count Charlotte), including four between 8 and 19 (Atlanta, Tampa, Miami, Orlando). With that buying power and the population shift from the Northeast and Midwest to the South, a SEC Network would become very profitable.

Since the SEC has numerous cable partners like Sun Sports and Cox Sports Net, it might be hard to appease them. But if you bring them in, and offer the network on a basic cable level, you could avoid many of the problems suffered by the Big Ten. Plus, with the weight of a cable network, the conference would have a lot more leverage in securing television money (and power) for the conference.