Sometime this year, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) is expected to announce a new television contract to replace a deal with CBS that expires in 2023.
The current deal pays the conference $55 million annually for first-choice football game coverage rights. That amount is divided among 14 member institutions, with the conference office also getting a cut.
While $55 million is a considerable sum, the rights are expected to fetch much more each year of the new deal. Conference officials went with CBS in this contract partly because the network could provide widespread coverage.
With the new deal, the emphasis is expected to be on revenue — perhaps $300 million or more, which could mean an extra $17-20 million or more annually for each member institution, including Auburn.
The SEC football package is considered one of the premiere in all of sport. In fact, preliminary negotiations became so pricey that CBS dropped out of the bidding, even though it had carried SEC games for 22 years.
That means that ESPN, which has the secondary contract now, will likely win the bidding, unless Fox or NBC takes an extremely strong interest.
“We made a strong and responsible bid," CBS Sports said in a statement. "While we‘ve had success with the SEC on CBS, we are instead choosing to aggressively focus on other important strategic priorities moving forward.”
Good thing television money is rising because nationwide attendance fell during the 2018 season at the typical game to a 22 year low, according to the NCAA.
That does not mean people are tiring of college football. To the contrary, we seem to have an insatiate appetite for college football, although that yearning seems to be waning among young adults. But generally, I know in Auburn, we are happy when the season starts and sad when it ends.
But going to a game and fighting for a good tailgate spot can be a hassle. It is easier to avoid the crowds, insects and weather by watching on a crystal clear flat screen. Hence the huge TV contracts, not just in the SEC, but in the Big 10 and elsewhere.
I do not know what Auburn will do with all that extra money. But, hey, how about putting it into academics. Now that is a novel idea!
Retired Auburn Attorney Don Eddins is publisher of The Auburn Villager newspaper and the online publication, auburnvillager.com. Before going into law, he was state Capitol reporter for The Huntsville Times and state editor for The Columbus Ledger. In college, he was sports editor of The Auburn Plainsman. Email him your comments about the newspaper to firstname.lastname@example.org.