August 22, 2013
ESPN ‘Optimistic’ About SEC Network Distribution
By Kaylee Hultgren
College GameDay senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting told press at ESPN’s media day at its Bristol, CT, HQ on Wednesday something college football fans might have suspected: “Ratings research tells us there’s never too much SEC.” In fact, 38% of GameDay viewers come from the conference.
But when it comes to scheduling games, you’ve got to spread the love around. Comparing the maneuvering to a 3-D chess board, Burke Magnus, svp, programming, college sports said you have to stagger them “across networks and across times” so there’s something for everyone. They have a lot of data about which teams resonate on which networks, but they also have to make sure all of the nets up in the ratings. Another task is managing the complications of each individual rights agreement. For instance, some teams like early starts, others want night games. “We’re managing a slew of contracts and none of them are the same,” said Kurt Dargis, director, programming and acquisitions.
Of course when the SEC Network launches in 2014, it will take some games from other ESPN networks. “We’re going to move some quality over to the SEC Network… no question there,” Dargis said. But everything else below CBS’s pick is available for them to play with, he added.
Though a year out from launch, Burke said the net is “really optimistic” about landing distribution, due to the power of the SEC both within and outside the region. “The fact that AT&T is on board more than a year in advance is a good sign,” he said. That being said, he acknowledged that “it’s a battlefield out there,” and, referring to FS1’s last-minute onboarding of distributors prior to launch, even they “went down to the wire.”
On the process of sublicensing and what value it brings to the network, Burke said that it doesn’t always stop with purchasing a set of rights. “The major conference acquisition process in my opinion has become a more comprehensive endeavor,” he said. If they do acquire all the rights to something, they have no problem selling them.