There are a lot of unknowns and chaotic cycles in the world of sports TV ratings. Lord knows we’ve been through it with the NFL for a while now. But if there’s one thing we all know for sure, one thing we can all agree on, it’s that SEC football is dependable. And not just dependable, but highly profitable.
And boy does the SEC know it. That’s why they’ve hired sports media advisory firm Evolution Media and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) as its “exclusive media advisors,” which is a fancy way of saying “the people who are going to make sure we get way more money on our next TV deal.”
“More than ever before, SEC fans have greater access to view Conference programming as a result of the SEC’s existing broadcast agreements and the development of new technology,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in a press release. “These realities make it increasingly important for the SEC to engage a sophisticated media advisor with expertise to assist the Conference in considering a media strategy in the years ahead.
“Evolution Media and Creative Artists Agency provide the SEC with exceptional media advisory expertise and their record of success is an indication of the many healthy relationships they maintain across all aspects of traditional and emerging media, which will help us maximize the Conference’s future opportunities,” Sankey said.
The SEC’s current deal with CBS (which is for the top football game of each week, but not an exclusive window any more following a renegotiated agreement in 2013 ahead of the 2014 launch of the SEC Network) nets them a cool $55 million per year. But by all accounts, that’s a steal for CBS right now. Just look at this past weekend when No. 1 Alabama demolished No. 3 LSU, 29-0, and audiences still showed up in droves. In fact, CBS announced that more people watched Alabama/LSU than any other game so far this season. And while the game registered a national 6.7 rating with a 13 share according to CBS, imagine how much bigger it could have been had the game been close.
The SEC’s current deal with CBS goes until 2023, which isn’t as far away as it sounds. If the conference and its new partners can get the ball rolling now, they’ve surely got one hell of a bidding war ahead of them. It’s likely that every major broadcast network, sports cable network, tech company, and subscription service will want to see if they’ve got what it takes to get in on the SEC’s golden ratings. Of course, ESPN already has a deal with the league for certain games, and you’d better believe they’d be interested in wrapping themselves in Alabama crimson and Tennessee orange all Saturday long.
It’s also going to be a very exciting time in the world of sports TV deals. As The Big Lead notes, multiple major contracts are expiring around that time (MLB, Champions League, and NHL in 2021, NFL, EPL, and MLS by 2022, and Big Ten by 2023). So we could see major shifting and a changing of the guard in the years to come, especially when you factor in all the new players like Facebook, Amazon, DAZN, and Stadium.
It’s hard to predict exactly how much the Saturday deal could be by 2024 but, much like the Alabama football team, you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be very good for the league.