Among the many changes that will be hitting the UK sports world next year is the new mega-television package that it signed with ESPN. The ramification of this deal really cannot be underestimated. Whereas before, the SEC had great rights in football and a mediocre to poor basketball package, it can now be said that it has the best football package by far and potentially the first or second best basketball package in terms of exposure for its top programs. In addition, the amount of money is staggering. Whereas just a few years ago, critics pointed to the Notre Dame-NBC deal and said it would give that school a financial benefit that would make it impossible to compete with, the new deal pays EVERY SCHOOL IN THE SEC more than Notre Dame makes with NBC. Think about that for a second…Vandy football will make more television money than Notre Dame. That is simply unbelievable.
But while money is of course a great feature of the package, the key to the greatness of the package is the exposure. Here is what we know now:
— CBS will still cover the game of the week and have three doubleheaders that will play nationally.
— ESPN and ESPN2 will show at least 2 and potentially 3 other games at night, one starting at 5 pm and the others at 8
— A regional network will show one game a week, beginning at 11:30 am….unfortunately for UK that may hurt the tailgates when the Cats are involved. However that regional network will play in all ten of the most populated cities in America, in addition to the regular Southern area. Essentially it makes the regional network, quasi-national.
— ESPNU will take whatever the other conference game that is played that isnt on any of the other networks.
— Non-conference home games will play either on ESPN, ESPN 2, the regional network, ESPN U or ESPN Classic. All will have some audience except one game, which will be given to the school to allow it to sell on either a pay per view basis or via free “UKTV” production. This will be the Eastern Kentucky game.
— Every SEC conference game may be televised on one of the ESPN platform of networks. For UK at this time every game, will either be on CBS, ESPN or ESPN 2. There will be as many as two times as many SEC games on national television and ESPN will have a national game on 2 different nights, as opposed to one on under the other contract.
— For Kentucky, the non-conference home games will also be on the ESPN networks more often and only 2-3 games will be on the local only affiliate.
— The SEC Tournament will be on the ESPN 2 and CBS.
— SEC games can be on ESPN or ESPN 2 on weekends, a scenario that was only rarely available under the old contract.
Bottom line: in football every game is on national tv and in basketball all of UK games except a couple of terrible ones are on national tv. The regional network will use the ESPN talent and there will be no game which a fan in New York, Boston, LA, Dallas, Houston, etc cannot see. Think about that for a second.
All in all, UK will likely have more combined football/basketball games on national television than any other program. That is big folks and with Calipari here to take advantage and the ability of the football team to benefit from the added exposure, the SEC deal is as sweet for Kentucky as for any other school