Hoover, Ala. — Amid the piles of paper produced for distribution at SEC Media Days, there’s an instructive grid detailing television arrangements for the first three weeks of the SEC season. By my count, those games will appear on seven different networks (CBS, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FSN and CSS). Then there’s one game per week that doesn’t go on a network per se, but rather to a syndicate of local stations in 73 markets around the country (including Peachtree TV in Atlanta). And there’s one game per school per season that is reserved for pay-per-view.
Got all that?
Starting times run the gamut from noon ET to 10:30 p.m. ET (LSU at Washington Sept. 5 on ESPN). On Sept. 5, from the noon start of the Kentucky-Miami (Ohio) game on ESPNU to the late finish of the LSU-Washington game, SEC football will be on TV for about 14 consecutive hours.
Better make sure you’ve got extra batteries for the remote control.
Almost two-thirds of the games in the first three weeks will be played at night — a concession the SEC made to maximize TV dollars. The SEC has had a significant number of night games on ESPN and ESPN2 in the past. But the number of night games increases this season with new packages of prime-time games on FSN, CSS and ESPNU.
All of this stems from the $3-billion, 15-year TV deals the SEC signed with CBS and ESPN last summer — shortly before, as commissioner Mike Slive noted thankfully on Wednesday, the full impact of the recession hit.
CBS maintains an exclusive 3:30 p.m. Saturday slot for what it deems the SEC’s top game each week (starting in Week 3 of the season), and on two occasions later in the season CBS has day-night SEC doubleheaders. Aside from the CBS selections, ESPN controls all games. But since not even ESPN’s roster of networks can accommodate all of that programming, ESPN has subcontracted seven games to FSN, six to CSS and 13 to the syndicate of local over-the-air stations.
As if you need further evidence of the SEC’s popularity as programming, consider this about the syndication package, which is being branded “SEC Network”: In addition to airing on local stations across the SEC footprint, those 13 early-afternoon games will be on affiliates in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, among other places, according to ESPN executive vice president for programming acquisition and strategy John Wildhack. Slive said the presidents of the SEC schools wanted more exposure outside the Southeast from the new TV deals, believing that would help in recruiting students. The syndicated games will be preceded by a 20-minute SEC studio show, on which former UGA star Matt Stinchcomb will be the analyst.
“I think one of the [SEC’s] advantages is, we have become a national brand,” Slive said. “Many conferences, the intensity of their following is more regional. With that has come some benefits to us.”
Game times and TV slots have been determined through the first three weeks of the season. Thereafter, most game times will be set no more than 6 or 12 days in advance. (One exception: the Oct. 31 Georgia-Florida game, which already is slotted for 3:30 p.m. on CBS, as usual.)
Here’s the SEC television schedule for the first three weeks:
THURSDAY SEPT. 3
7 p.m.: South Carolina at N.C. State, ESPN
SATURDAY SEPT. 5
Noon: Kentucky vs. Miami (Ohio) in Cincinnati, ESPNU
12:21 p.m.: Western Kentucky at Tennessee, syndicated (WPCH in Atlanta)
3:30 p.m.: Georgia at Oklahoma State, ABC
3:30 p.m.: Jackson State at Mississippi State, ESPNU
7 p.m.: Louisiana Tech at Auburn, ESPNU
7 p.m.: Charleston Southern at Florida, FSN
7 p.m.: Missouri State at Arkansas, pay-per-view
7:30 p.m.: Western Carolina at Vanderbilt, CSS
8 p.m.: Alabama vs. Virginia Tech in Atlanta, ABC
10:30 p.m.: LSU at Washington, ESPN
SUNDAY, SEPT. 6
3:30 p.m.: Mississippi at Memphis, ESPN
SATURDAY SEPT. 12
12:21 p.m.: Troy at Florida, syndicated (WPCH in Atlanta)
4 p.m.: UCLA at Tennessee, ESPN
7 p.m.: South Carolina at Georgia, ESPN2
7 p.m.: Vanderbilt at LSU, ESPNU
7 p.m.: Mississippi State at Auburn, FSN
7 p.m.: Florida International at Alabama, pay-per-view
SATURDAY SEPT. 19
Noon: Louisville at Kentucky, ESPNU
12:21 p.m.: North Texas at Alabama, syndicated (WPCH in Atlanta)
3:30 p.m.: Tennessee at Florida, CBS
7 p.m.: Louisiana Lafayette at LSU, ESPNU
7 p.m.: Mississippi State at Vanderbilt, FSN
7 p.m.: Florida Atlantic at South Carolina, pay-per-view
7:30 p.m.: Southeastern Louisiana at Mississippi, CSS
7:45 p.m.: Georgia at Arkansas, ESPN or ESPN2
7:45 p.m.: West Virginia at Auburn, ESPN or ESPN2