Here’s an excellent deep dive into the upcoming negotiations of the SEC television package currently held by CBS. Just like everything else Mike Slive did with the conference’s broadcast rights, it’s tremendously undervalued, as all parties recognize.
The question is where things go from here. This is the one of the gentlemen Greg Sankey has tasked with cutting the next deal:
One factor seemingly working in Disney’s favor is CAA super agent Nick Khan. The SEC hired Khan and Evolution Media’s Alan Gold to represent the league in its negotiations with television networks, signaling to many that it wanted a big payday this time around. Khan represents a lot of the sports media world’s biggest names including top ESPN college football talent like Herbstreit, Rece Davis and Paul Finebaum. Khan has done deals with all the major players — he facilitated the WWE deal with FOX and NBC, for instance — but insiders believe he’s been pushing SEC leaders to strongly consider ABC/ESPN. Among the reasoning, he’s pointed out advantages to aligning closer with a growing Disney company that is making big purchases (21st Century Fox) and investing big in over the top platforms (ESPN+ and Disney+) compared to Viacom/CBS which recently combined in a merger expected to be finalized in December.
If continuing to have a national broadcast platform as it currently does with CBS is of value to Sankey — and I think it should be — Mickey can offer ABC to that end and give the SEC more flexibility with scheduling on one giant platform. Alternatively, some think that cutting a deal to rotate the top game between CBS and ESPN would be a good compromise.
The part I find most interesting is this:
One key factor is how CBS and SEC each interpret the current contract, which was agreed to in 2008. Within the contract is a provision that states, “CBS would have the right of first negotiation/first refusal for at least the same terms for a term commencing in 2024-25 and beyond for football and basketball.” Those terms include selection priority (CBS gets first pick of SEC games), game time and exclusivity, among other factors.
But in a confidential memo obtained by AL.com addressed to the SEC’s presidents and chancellors, Sankey pushed back on the legality of that specific provision.
“We believe that we have a good faith obligation to offer to enter into an exclusive negotiation period with CBS,” Sankey wrote, “but do not believe that CBS has any first refusal rights for reasons that can best be addressed by our legal counsel.”
If CBS doesn’t retain the rights, the SEC’s legal counsel won’t be the party with the last word.