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SEC to consider launching television network

May 29, 2008

In an exercise of utter stupidity, the SEC will begin discussions about launching their own network during this week’s spring meetings in Miramar Beach, Fla (the venue where the meetings are held is not in Destin as all of the datelines suggest).

Has this conference learned nothing from the Big Ten and Mountain West, who’ve launched their own networks in recent years and been met with minimal success?

I had just arrived in Destin when news of the Big Ten Network’s 2007 launch was announced and the Southern radio talk show hosts were beside themselves. How could the Big Ten possibly have enough interest to warrant their own television network? Obviously, these were people that never ventured up to Columbus the week of the Michigan game or sat in Mackey Arena when the Hoosiers came to town in the middle of January (usually to beat the Boilermakers’ brains out).

What I’ve noticed after living for two years now in the South is that SEC fans, particularly when it comes to football, believe they have the market cornered when it comes to ridiculous levels of fandom and passion for their respective teams. Bearing in mind that more than 92,000 people showed up for Alabama’s spring game in 2007, the SEC is considering launching a 24/7 network for the truly crazy and the truly bored and amongst SEC fans, those qualities are not mutually exclusive.

This network, I believe, would be profoundly less successful than the Big Ten Network, which has been a relative flop in its own right because there is nothing to carry viewership when football isn’t in season. The Big Ten has the advantage of being a basketball-crazy conference in addition to being a strong football conference, while the SEC, though having competitive basketball teams in recent years, seems to care very little about the roundball. Do you really think that a Saban-love, Houndstooth-wearing Alabama fan is going to tune in to the SEC Network in March to watch the Vanderbilt and Ole Miss Women’s Gymnastics teams square off? Almost certainly, not.

If it’s not pigskin or pigskin-related, I have a hard time believing that SEC fans will care.

The deals that the SEC have with CBS and ESPN are good deals that already have a large majority of their football and basketball games being aired nationally. To take those games off those readily available networks and make fans pay an extra premium to watch their favorite teams is a mistake the conference can ill afford to make.

Other opinions:

The Orlando Sentinel’s David Whitley offers some programming suggestions for SEC TV.

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