Editor’s note: The SEC Network launches Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. The new network and its accompanying digital platform will air SEC content 24/7 including more than 1,000 events in its first year.
Where do we begin?
That weighted question was presented at the first SEC Network programming meeting in May 2013.
“At first, we had to spend time learning about our audience and their expectations,” said Dan Margulis, senior director of ESPN’s college sports programming. “We gathered the opinions of smart, creative people who appreciate SEC culture and know our core audience. This is always a key step before we solidify any plans.”
Margulis first helped launch ESPN2 in 1993 and would later program Yes Network and NFL Network from their infancy. He would return to ESPN shortly after ESPNU launched in 2005, helping to grow ESPN’s fourth linear network.
The first area that Margulis and his team examined was the SEC Network’s potential live game slate.
“We looked at old conference schedules in all sports and analyzed their strengths and weaknesses which helped identify opportunities,” Margulis said. ” We then charted out a full year, which further distinguished patterns. Once we knew where the needs would be for original programming, that is when we could start to be even more creative.”
At this point, ideas are plentiful – some more realistic than others.
“There are so many great thoughts out there, but prioritizing and pacing development is something I have definitely learned through my past experiences,” Margulis said. “Some concepts might work better in Year 2 or 3, or maybe are better incubated as a segment within a show, before we invest in and develop a series.”
One of the first shows announced was SEC Nation, which will be entrenched in the passion of SEC football and its respective school fan bases.
“This is one of our signature programs,” he said. “Airing from a different campus every week during football season will allow us to soak in the conference culture and the varying traditions of each institution.”
SEC Network also will feature personality-driven shows, spearheaded by The Paul Finebaum Show.
“Paul is a highly intelligent journalist who can switch from a compelling interview with [South Carolina head football coach] Steve Spurrier to debating fandom with a show regular, like Phyllis from Mulga, Ala.,” Margulis said. “For those who have never heard the show, I encourage watching.”
Like the network, Margulis describes the show as “uniquely SEC.”
Vitally important to every college sports fans are the latest highlights and updates. SEC Network will not disappoint in that arena either with the daily news and information show SEC Now, covering all 21 SEC sports. The network also will expand the conference-focused storytelling franchise SEC Storied.
“Scheduling a new network is like doing a puzzle and comes with a great deal of frustration, but there is no better feeling than creating something new from scratch,” Margulis said.
That feeling will hit the SEC Network programming department at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday.