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SEC teams with ESPN for a national television network

Charlotte’s ESPNU hub will be home to venture launching in 2014

By Mark Washburn
TV/Radio Writer

ESPN and the Southeastern Conference said Thursday that Charlotte will be the home of its new SEC Network, which will launch in August 2014.

In a deal that will run through 2034 – likely the longest-term broadcast contract in all U.S. sports – the new network will carry 1,000 live events annually on TV or digitally, including 45 conference football games. Financial terms were not disclosed.

In announcing the new network in Atlanta, SEC commissioner Mike Slive and ESPN president John Skipper said the network will offer SEC-oriented programming 24 hours a day to a national audience.

Though Charlotte lies outside the 11-state SEC footprint – the University of South Carolina in Columbia is the nearest conference member – it is home to ESPNU, the college sports network with a modern $20 million production hub in Ballantyne. About 100 new jobs will be created for the SEC Network.

“Charlotte offered us the opportunity to concentrate quality production and getting this network right, not building a building and thinking about that for the next 16 months,” said Skipper.

Already, AT&T U-verse has signed on to carry the network. ESPN is pursuing carriage agreements with Time Warner Cable, DirectTV and other providers.

For Saturday football, CBS will continue to have first choice of games to broadcast, leaving the SEC Network with three windows through the day for other games, Slive said.

Washburn: 704-358-5007.
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