ESPN, SEC to Form New Sports Net

Conference boasts some of college football’s most valuable franchises

ESPN and the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday will formally announce the launch of a new sports network devoted to the 14 member schools.

In a press conference scheduled to take place tomorrow at noon at the Hyatt Atlanta Regency, ESPN and the athletic conference will unveil the as-yet unnamed network, which is set to launch in April 2014.

Among those who will speak at the event are ESPN president John Skipper and SEC commissioner Mike Slive. A coterie of some 30 SEC head coaches will also be on hand for tomorrow’s presser.

UPDATE: In deference to the tragic events that took place in Boston earlier this afternoon, ESPN and the SEC have postponed Tuesday’s press conference.

Under the terms of the SEC’s current media contracts, which were to expire in 2023, ESPN pays an estimated $150 million per year for the rights to its football and basketball package, while CBS invests $55 million per year.

While terms of the deal have not been disclosed, the SEC network is all but certain to be a cash cow for ESPN and the schools. According to Forbes, the conference is home to some of the most valuable college football franchises in the country, a roster that includes No. 4 LSU ($102 million), No. 5 Georgia ($99 million), No. 6 Alabama ($95 million) and No. 7 Florida ($93 million).

Alabama’s victory in the 2013 BCS national title game enriched the SEC’s coffers by a tidy $23.6 million. The previous year, 'Bama’s 21-0 blanking of LSU secured the SEC a $22.3 million payout.

Incidentally, the most valuable college football program is the Texas Longhorns ($133 million)—a franchise that also happens to boast its own ESPN-sponsored sports network.

As is the case with the Big Ten Network and the Pac-12 Network, the SEC channel is expected to launch as a national service with distribution concentrated in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana.

The network is likely to call Charlotte, N.C., its home base, as ESPN Regional Television already has a foothold in the Queen City.