If you’re looking for the canary in the coal mine as to whether the oft-rumored SEC TV network will ever make it off the ground, well, there may be 100 million of them.
The University of Florida and Fox‘s Sun Sports have signed a media rights deal that is not only one of the most lucrative in the country, but also could end the likelihood of an SEC channel being created any time soon.
The deal will pay Florida’s marketing arm, the University Athletic Association, roughly $10 million a year for the next 10 years. Florida, one of the Southeastern Conference’s most marketable schools, was one of the few major colleges that handled many of its marketing and media rights in-house.
The deal also could be a sign that an SEC channel — modeled after the Big Ten Network — is not in the offing, industry analysts speculated. While the deal itself would not preclude the SEC from creating a channel, its timing, just weeks before the conference picks its new TV partners, suggests that such a channel is unlikely.
Needless to say, that’s a lot of money for a local program. And it’s not the kind of deal you’re gonna see, say, Mississippi State strike any time soon. But that doesn’t mean the conference will step in to level the playing field.
The deal between Florida and Sun Sports “could be an indicator that an SEC network is no longer in play,” said one TV analyst, who asked not to be identified. “The timing certainly is interesting, isn’t it?”
The SEC has the ultimate authority over the local rights of the schools, so it could conceivably commandeer those rights if it decided to launch a network. But the schools that already enjoy significant revenue from their local TV arrangements — Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU — might be hard-pressed to see the value in a conference network.
Those local TV packages typically include tape-delayed or pay-per-view football games, as well as less-attractive nonconference basketball games.
Some TV analysts believe that schools with their own local TV packages should resist the creation of a network that would take over ownership of those rights.
(h/t The Wizard of Odds)