The Southeastern Conference, which just signed a 15-year deal with CBS on the broadcast rights to its football and basketball games, on Monday made ESPN its cable partner. Between the two whopping deals, the SEC will make about $205 million a year, triple what it was earning from television under its last contract.
The ESPN package includes not only games on ESPN, ESPN 2 and college-sports channel ESPNU, but Spanish-language football on ESPN Deportes, replays of old games on ESPN Classic and, on-line simulcasts on ESPN360.com. You can watch on a cell phone via ESPN Mobile TV and you can watch overseas on ESPN International. You might even be able to watch on broadcast television some will be syndicated to local broadcast stations through ESPN Regional Television, which will syndicate some games to stations near SEC schools. ESPN may also sell off some games to other sports networks, including Comcast and Fox Sports.
The deal goes beyond football and men's basketball, too. ESPN channels will carry at least 32 women's basketball games, as well as A minimum of three regular-season baseball or softball games will be offered on ESPN or ESPN2 as well as some baseball, softball, gymnastics, soccer, volleyball, track and probably tiddlywinks if that becomes an NCAA-sanctioned sport.
Coupled with the CBS deal, the alliance with ESPN scuttles any hope of an all-SEC cable channel like the Big 10 Network. Considering the difficulty the Big 10 Network has had in signing up cable systems, that doesn't sound like a big loss.