The expansion craze has impacted and will continue to impact every FBS conference in collegiate football. It's a land grab over money and the SEC is right in the mix by just recently formally admitting Texas A&M into the conference.
Adding more teams increases the leverage conferences have at renegotiating their television rights with CBS, ESPN, NBC, and FOX. The unprecedented contract the Pac-12 signed with FOX to broadcast their conference games laid the foundation for future negotiations down the roads with any conference that expands.
With the SEC having already added Texas A&M, and in turn adding the coveted Houston television market, it provides the league with the upper hand when it comes to increasing the amount of money the conference earns from selling their Tier 1 and Tier 2 rights to CBS and ESPN.
Not only does it provide the the conference with leverage needed to increase their television payout but it gives SEC commissioner Mike Slive the ability to bundle the Tier 3 rights and sell those on their own SEC Network.
Currently each SEC team owns the rights to broadcast at least one game of their own. For example, LSU fans earlier this season could pay $34.50 to watch the Tigers crush the Northwestern State Demons. Given that each SEC team owns the rights to at least one game that leaves 13 games available to broadcast until the SEC expands to 14 in which there will be fourteen.
It's being speculated that Missouri will become the 14th team which something that I think will happen shortly. If that happens, then Missouri and, in turn, the Kansas City and St. Louis markets will be added just like the Houston market was added.
With fourteen teams, the SEC would have at least fourteen games it could package on its own network, which is something that Mike Slive has learned from Jim Delaney when the Big Ten Network was created. That network has increased its profits yearly which are then shared equally throughout the twelve team conference.
In a football crazed section of the country like the South, an SEC Network would likely be immensely popular. The archival footage the SEC owns that they could broadcast yearly would prove as programming fodder during the football offseason when basketball and baseball aren't being shown. How many LSU subscribers to an SEC Network wouldn't want to re-watch the 1997 LSU/Florida game where the Tigers defeated the #1 ranked Gators in Tiger Stadium?
The inclusion of the Houston, Kansas City, and St. Louis television markets would increase the amount of potential subscribers to such a network but why stop there? The most manageable large conference would be 16 teams and that's exactly the number I think the SEC will eventually expand to.
Right now the largest television markets in the SEC footprint (speculating that Missouri joins) according to stationindex.com are Atlanta (8th), Houston (10th) , Tampa-St. Petersburg (13th), St. Louis (21st), Nashville (29th), Jacksonville (47th), New Orleans (53rd), and Knoxville (59th).
The addition of Missouri and Texas A&M would increase the population in the SEC's footprint from 50 million to 81 million. North Carolina (8 million) and Virginia (7 million) would be desired for their markets and population but universities located in the two states are unlikely to leave the ACC. North Carolina is a highly prestigious academic university that likely won't split up the Tobacco Road series with Duke or leave the more academically prestigious ACC for the SEC. Virginia Tech faces pressure from the Virginia legislature to remain in the same conference as Virginia.
Virginia Tech's associate vice president, Larry Hincker, has been vociferous in his denying of any interest that Virginia Tech would have in changing conferences. “Virginia Tech is exceedingly pleased with our membership in the ACC. It is the perfect conference for us. The university administration has no interest in any discussion concerning affiliation with any conference other than the ACC.”
That leaves North Carolina State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Florida State as the remaining candidates for SEC expansion to 16.
With six television markets in the top 100, it would be wise for the SEC to double-down on the state of Florida in order to secure as many subscribers in that state as possible. Not only that but Florida State fits the description the criteria the SEC demands in expansion candidates.
N.C. State would be splitting up a rivalry with all of the Tobacco Road universities and is the third most popular university in the state of North Carolina – not the type of university the SEC would like for expansion. Oklahoma is doubtful, along with Oklahoma State, due to their reignited love affair with the Big XII. That leaves West Virginia, which isn't a terrible fit as I've previously described here.
Bringing Florida State and West Virginia into the SEC increases the overall population inside the SEC's footprint to 83 million, increases the amount of competition within the conference and presents marketable games which the SEC could use even more for leverage in negotiations.
Not only that but Tier 3 rights involving games featuring the four most recently added SEC teams – Florida State, Missouri, Texas A&M, and West Virginia – offers 16 games for the SEC to market on their own network.
Basketball games would also be played on the SEC Network and with competitive programs like Missouri, Texas A&M, and Florida State being added, along with a premier program in West Virginia, would add to the price the SEC could set for it's own network.
Using Texas' Longhorn Network as an example which earns $15 million for 1-2 games that will be broadcast on it's own network, the SEC could earn $16 million. Let me clarify: If Texas, which competes in a less competitive league than the SEC, can earn $15 million per year then each SEC team should be worth the amount of teams in the conference which would be $16 million.
A more competitive league increases the profitability and marketability of the conference and with the SEC already being the most competitive collegiate football conference, even more so with the addition of those four schools, then it's not out of the realm of possibility AT ALL to expect that each team is worth the amount of teams in the conference.
If that proves true then the negotiating would begin at $256 million for the rights to broadcast the Tier 3 games on the SEC Network.
Perhaps the only problem Slive would face in created an SEC Network would be getting each individual school to sign off their Tier 3 rights but with how cohesive and compatible the SEC schools have been and continue to be it shouldn't be an issue.
heir Tier 3 rights but with how cohesive and compatible the SEC schools have been and continue to be it shouldn't be an issue.