The SEC had a press conference to officially announce that its new network will start in August of 2014.
And while there were other questions during the press conference – no, SEC commissioner Mike Slive will not discuss how the ownership of the network will be structured between the league and ESPN, no matter how many times you ask – the biggest issue is distribution.
Just like it was for the NFL Network. And Pac-12 Network. And Big Ten Network. And The Mtn., the Mountain West's network.
Get ready, because we could be in for another annoying battle. The press conference hadn't even ended by the time Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart was already sounding the alarms.
— Mitch Barnhart (@UKMitchBarnhart) May 2, 2013
There wasn't much concern shown by the conference. The SEC Network already has its first national distributor, AT&T U-verse, which is a good start.
"We have 16 months to have those conversations," said ESPN's Justin Connolly, who will oversee the network's day-to-day operations. "We feel good about the opportunities that exist on that horizon."
For now there is no concern. The SEC Network will have huge appeal and it should get wide distribution. Hopefully the network/distributor battles of the past few years don't have to be repeated. But check back a year from now if some major distributors aren't on board yet. There won't be as much patience then, especially considering the SEC plans to put three football games on the network every Saturday in the fall. The SEC announced the extension of its media rights agreement with ESPN through 2034, so this arrangement will last for quite a while.
While the SEC states might yell the loudest if distribution problems aren't resolved, it's an issue that will be felt everywhere considering the SEC's place atop college football.
"We believe this conference has national appeal," ESPN president John Skipper said. "This is not a regional network, this is a national network."