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Thursday, June 20, 2024

ESPN Wants More SEC Games, but Conference Eyes a Bigger Payday

  • The SEC has an eight-game intraconference football schedule, one fewer than the Big Ten.
  • ESPN will be paying $710 million per year for SEC media rights.
Detroit Free Press

The SEC has been exploring the possibility of expanding its intraconference football schedule from eight to nine games for some time now. A year ago, leaders opted to not make a decision on the move at the league’s spring meetings. This week’s gathering of athletic directors and other executives in Destin, Fla., rendered a similar outcome—but with a new wrinkle.

As meetings wrapped up, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey made it clear that the conference wants Disney to fork over more money in order for schools to add another annual game against one another. This season, the company will begin paying $710 million a year for SEC games on ESPN and ABC, as the broadcast network takes over the game of the week that has been on CBS since 1996.

The Big Ten and Big 12 each play nine-game conference schedules, while the ACC plays eight. Sankey confirmed the SEC had reengaged in conversations with ESPN officials about the value of expanding its conference schedule. Right now, at eight conference games, schools can schedule an extra home game against anyone they choose, allowing for an influx of ticket, concession, and other gameday revenue. Under a nine-game conference schedule, each school would have to give up that home game every other year. If ESPN is willing to pay enough to offset that, then adding an extra conference game seems like it will be a given.

It Pays to Win

One change the SEC did make this week was how it plans to distribute revenue for schools that play in the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff. Teams that play in the first round will receive $3 million, the second round will be worth an additional $3.5 million, the semifinals another $3.75 million, and a championship game appearance $4 million.

Grab Some Popcorn

The SEC also released some early-season game broadcast windows, with some tantalizing matchups in ABC’s new 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday slot. The first all-SEC game at that time to not air on CBS will be South Carolina–Kentucky on Sept. 7. Texas and Oklahoma will resume the Red River Rivalry as new members of the SEC in that window on Oct. 12. Georgia-Alabama will get a prime-time slot on ABC on Sept. 28.

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