The SEC Network will keep fans occupied in future years, adding the approximate annual inventory to its current telecasts on CBS, ESPN and ESPN2:
45 football games
100 men's basketball games
60 women's basketball games
75 baseball games
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Those Southeastern Conference sports fans who long for around-the-clock programming are 16 months away from paradise.
League commissioner Mike Slive along with ESPN announced Thursday in Atlanta the formation of the SEC Network, which is scheduled to launch in August 2014. The announcement was originally set for April 16 but was postponed due to the Boston Marathon tragedy a day earlier.
"Today we take yet another step to ensure the long-term strength of the league," Slive said. "For the first time, a conference will launch a network in collaboration with its primary overall media rights partner. The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top-quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms.
"We will increase the exposure for all 14 of our institutions, and we will showcase the incredible student-athletes in our league."
No financial details were provided by Slive, ESPN president John Skipper and ESPN senior vice president of programming Justin Connolly.
The SEC Network will be based in Charlotte and will televise 1,000 live sporting events each year, with 450 on the network and the other 550 distributed digitally. As many as 45 football games will be shown on the network, including three every Saturday.
CBS will continue to get the first pick of SEC football games each Saturday, and then a content board will make decisions on which games will be shown via ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC Network. CBS no longer will have an exclusive window from 3:30 to 7 p.m., so the SEC Network will have a lunchtime kickoff, a mid-afternoon kickoff and an evening kickoff each week.
Football games that had been pay-per-view telecasts will be in the SEC Network mix, which could be a publicity plus for FCS schools such as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which will travel to Tennessee in '14.
More than 100 men's basketball games will be shown annually on the SEC Network, as well as 75 baseball games and 60 women's basketball games. There will be championship coverage for all 21 sports in which the league competes.
"There will be something for every SEC fan all the time," Slive said.
The Big Ten, Pac-12 and the University of Texas have in recent years launched networks that experienced some growing pains. Slive and ESPN are convinced this will be much different, with Connolly announcing that AT&T U-verse is on board as the first distributor.
ESPN plans to carry the SEC Network as a similar service as ESPN within the 11-state league footprint and as a similar service to ESPNU outside the footprint. Skipper said ESPN is in 100 million homes across the country, and Connolly said ESPNU is in 75 million.
"We believe that this conference has national appeal," Skipper said. "This is not a regional network. This is a national network. There are a lot of SEC fans in California, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, Virginia and Nebraska, and we expect to be in all those places widely distributed with this network."
The league decided against an SEC Network when it reached 15-year agreements with CBS and ESPN in 2008, but Slive said the contracts contained "look-ins" that allowed for adjustments.
Since 2000, the SEC has won 84 national championships in 18 sports, including five this school year by five different institutions. The league has won more national championships -- six -- in men's basketball than any other league in the last 20 seasons, and its stranglehold on college football is now up to seven straight BCS titles.
Alabama has won three of those football championships, Florida two, and Auburn and LSU one each.
"I attended the BCS national championship game in January," Connolly said. "During the third quarter, I was in awe when a large crimson-clad section of the stadium broke into the famous 'S-E-C' chant. That is truly unique, and there is not another conference in America where that sense of pride and sense of belonging translates into such a public display.
"That S-E-C chant and the feeling it evokes would match or exceed the fight song or rallying call of any single institution, let alone any conference, and that same emotion and connection lives vibrantly across all 14 institutions of the SEC and among all its fans."
The SEC and ESPN also extended their media rights agreement through 2034, which Skipper said was the longest such pact in all of sports.
Odds and ends
Slive said the SEC would play just two Thursday night games each football season moving forward. ... Under the new agreement, ESPN will run all of the SEC's digital platforms. ... Slive believes there will be lively discussion in the months ahead about whether to remain with an eight-game league schedule in football or go to nine.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...