SEC, ESPN sign 20-year digital network agreement

University of Arkansas officials say the Razorback athletic programs will benefit from a 20-year agreement between the Southeastern Conference and ESPN to create and operate a multiplatform network, which will launch in August 2014.

The network was announced Thursday (May 2) by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and ESPN President John Skipper. The new network and its accompanying digital platform will air SEC content 24/7 including more than 1,000 events in its first year.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the University of Arkansas and the entire Southeastern Conference,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long said in a statement. “The network will provide unprecedented exposure for our program and our University while providing more opportunities for passionate Razorback fans all over the country to watch our student-athletes compete. By partnering with ESPN, the SEC has ensured the nation’s most competitive athletic conference will be able to effectively engage our fans for many years to come.”

The network will televise approximately 45 SEC football games, more than 100 men’s basketball games, 60 women’s basketball games, 75 baseball games, and events from across the SEC’s 21 sports annually.

Programming will also include studio shows, original content such as SEC Storied, spring football games, signing day and pro days coverage. Hundreds of additional live events from various sports will be offered exclusively on the digital platform. The network and its digital extensions will connect with each SEC institution and create opportunities for each school to produce and develop content.

Each weekend throughout the season, the new network will air multiple top-tier matchups from the strongest conference in college football. Since 2006, the SEC has claimed seven consecutive football national championships. Since 1990, the SEC has won 149 national team championships for an average of more than six per year.

“The SEC is unmatched in its success on the field and its popularity with fans nationwide,” Skipper said. “The new network’s top-quality SEC matchups across a range of sports will serve all sports enthusiasts including the most passionate, die-hard SEC fans. Also, it will serve the needs of our multichannel distributors and advertisers by providing extremely attractive programming options across all platforms.”

The University of Arkansas has consistently ranked among the most successful athletic programs in the country. Last year based on the success of its 19 sport programs, Arkansas finished 20th in the Learfield Sports Directors Cup standings.

“The SEC Network will provide expanded national exposure of the University of Arkansas’ nationally competitive all-sports program allowing us to highlight the success and the inspiring stories of our student-athletes, coaches and fans to a national audience,” Long said.

As part of the agreement, ESPN will now oversee the SEC’s official Corporate Sponsor Program. In addition, ESPN and the SEC also agreed to extend their existing media rights agreement through 2034. ESPN has televised the SEC since 1982. ESPN’s existing networks present more than 1,600 hours of SEC action each year. The new network will focus exclusively on the SEC and add another outlet to deliver sports fans more SEC content than ever.

ESPN’s Justin Connolly, formerly senior vice president, ESPN affiliate sales and marketing, will oversee the network’s day-to-day operations. The network will originate from ESPN’s Charlotte, N.C., offices with additional staff located at the company’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters. Staff announcements and additional details will be made in the coming months.