Waiting on Project X

Money in collegiate athletics is one of the most popular topics in sports.

And it's easy to understand why. After all, the SEC has nearly doubled its revenue since 2009. This, of course, is as a result of a huge TV deal that went into place that year.

Consider: The SEC distributed $241.5 million last week… that's about $20 million per school per year. Of the $241.5 million, $116.6 million was derived from the SEC's TV contract specifically for football. That means each home SEC football game is worth $1.4 million in TV money alone.

Think about that: For every fan who purchases a $45 ticket at Sanford Stadium, Greg McGarity and company get another $15 for letting TV set up their high definition cameras.

But what if you own the cameras? What if you, the SEC, are the ones putting on the broadcast? That's probably where the SEC is heading and with good reason. Why just collect the money from TV? Why not become TV?

According to Tim Tucker's article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that's something outgoing Georgia president Michael Adams thinks is on the way.

"I have long advocated for an arrangement [in which] we look for a media partner where we would own at least 51 percent of the deal and create a network," Adams told Tucker.

After all, a yet-to-be-created SEC Network (known in SEC Administrative circles as Project X) would allow the SEC not only to charge fans who come to the game and the networks that broadcasting them. A new cable network would allow the SEC to also charge cable customers who don't even watch the new channel.

Do you watch the Hallmark Channel? Doesn't matter... you pay for it.

The same theory holds true with a "new" SEC Network.

But in 2009 the SEC didn't see it that way (Adams told Tucker that he did see it that way in 2009, but that he was in the minority at the time). The conference didn't want to have all of the headaches that go along with being a cable brand. It just wanted the money from it, which was understandable.

But the math has changed, and so has the landscape.

Texas' Longhorn Network continues to fleece ESPN on a yearly basis even if it is not yet clear if that venture is sustainable for the worldwide leader. But the Big Ten Network rolls along… charging some cable customers who aren't even in the Midwest for the channel. The Pac 12 will own its network outright – something the SEC could think about, too.

Its not like there is a shortage of SEC inventory to put on the air.

The SEC's Media Days in middle of July would serve as a kickoff point for the channel in terms of live broadcasting. Live cut-ins at football practice, game replays and nightly shows could take up all of August. Soccer and volleyball would fill in the blanks during the fall when the channel took a break at from the pigskin.

According to the SEC's Charles Bloom, so-called third-tier games are those home football contests not on a national network (CBS) or on national cable and all that is owned by it (ESPN). Georgia's games with the likes of Buffalo could be broadcast by a "new" SEC Network rather than on WSB or on pay-per-view. Consider that pretty much each week of the 2012 season there is a third-tier game available to be broadcast by a new network.

Anyone ready for that Syracuse-at-Missouri thriller on November 17th in Columbia? Me, too.

SEC Men's Basketball would eat up programming before the New Year, Women's Basketball and Baseball (oh Baseball how this new network will love you) alone would eat up tons of programming on a "new" SEC Network from November through June.

Creating programming would be the least of the SEC's concerns.

But why would cable companies agree to charge customers for a "new" SEC Network?

Leverage.

People watch the SEC more than any other brand of college sports, and it is hard to imagine the conference being passed in viewership on free TV anytime soon.

With that said the Big Ten owns pay TV right now because it is the only player in the game. 50 million paying subscribers (I am one of them, but I almost always skip right past the Big Ten Network) can't be wrong. Neither can the $8 million each of the 12 Big Ten schools are getting each year as a result.

So expect Project X on your cable bill soon... you are welcome SEC fan.


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