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When the Big Ten became the first conference to create an entire television network to itself in 2007, programming reached 16 million viewers in its inaugural season.

The SEC Network, which will make its historical launch Thursday, is set to be in nearly 90 million homes — which matches where the Big Ten is seven years later.

The SEC also joins the Pac-12 and Texas' more-criticized-than-viewed Longhorn Network, even though the SEC, which prides itself on being ahead of the curve, waited a while before going out on its own.

However, it was time to step up its game.

"SEC fans are the inspiration for the network," SEC Network representative Justin Connolly said last month at SEC Media Days. "They are a current and future source of constructive critiques and feedback. I can tell you, as you know well, they are a most vigilant group."

The SEC Network plans on carrying 18 exclusive football games in the first 24 days; it's debut live game is South Carolina-Texas A&M on Aug. 28. And that's the only way to watch it.

The SEC Network plans on showing plenty of other sports than football. That means if you want to see T.L. Hanna product and South Carolina women's soccer player Chelsea Drennan perform live on TV, there's a good chance you can.

But we all know and understand which sport is the meat of this conference. That will be the focus of this network, so what will all this mean for the entire sport?

When the Longhorn Network debuted in 2011, there was criticism about the unfair recruiting advantage Texas would have in Big 12.

The SEC will immediately have that impact. Sure, the Big Ten and Pac-12 networks are more established, but which channel do you think young football players in the Sun Belt, the area of the country that produces the most talent, will be more acquainted with?

Recruits already get what the league can do on Saturdays, but now they'll see more inside-the-program type features. Already knowing what prospects expect when they host, these schools will up the ante even more in recruiting; it's going to get crazy and more competitive.

Then there's the money. Oh, the money.

According to a story on Nasdaq.com, the SEC Network is set to bring in $830 million annually in revenue.

That would make it worth nearly as much as ESPN2 and three times as large as the Big Ten and Pac-12 networks, according to the report.

It's unknown what the split between the SEC and ESPN/Disney will be, but figures project as much as $28 million extra per year going to SEC schools, which already collected close to $21 million each in revenue in 2013.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier recently said he told his team when the SEC first announced its new network, a whole bunch more cash was coming, but none of it was going to them.

That was long before last week's "autonomy" vote, which give the Power 5 conferences the ability to start paying college athletes some sort of extra cash on top of a scholarship.

The SEC will likely lead the charge to get athletes paid, which will change the game forever.

And what about the facilities race? The SEC schools are already at war trying to top each other with ridiculously nice student-athlete centers, tricked-out locker rooms and stadium upgrades that make the NFL envious. Another $28 million is going to go a long, long way.

This new network isn't just going to provide 24-hour entertainment to die-hard and casual fans; it has a chance to make an impact on college sports the other conference networks have only dreamed of thus far.

LOOKING BACK: DirecTV's SEC Network Stance Faces Immediate Backlash

Brad Senkiw can be reached at 864-260-1283 or by email at senkiwrb@independentmail.com Follow him on Twitter @bsenkiwaim

August 14, 2014

 
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