DESTIN, Fla. — The Southeastern Conference saw fit to reward Commissioner Mike Slive with a $1 million bonus in 2009 after he oversaw a new television deal with ESPN and CBS that launched the conference into a new tax bracket.
So, it's not a surprise that confidence is brimming as the league digs into a renegotiation with the networks in the wake of adding Missouri and Texas A&M. The talks are reported to include a discussion to start an SEC network that could launch as early as 2014.
Slive is saying little this week about the TV possibilities, but all indications point to something bigger.
"I would term it enthusiastic optimism, based on the leadership we have in our league," Missouri Athletics Director Mike Alden said.
SEC schools realized a 50 percent increase in distributions from the league in a two-year period after the TV deal was struck, jumping from an average of $13 million in 2009 to $19.5 million in 2011, according to tax documents.
Not only is the SEC working on new contracts but discussing the possibility of a conference network along the lines of the Big Ten Network.
The league already has a digital network, but a spot on cable could be a major step with markets in Florida, Texas, Georgia and Missouri, among others.
"When we did our (ESPN/CBS) deal, we sort of changed the game," said Florida President Bernie Machen. "Then the Big Ten came along and did a channel. So, we're looking at how to package things. We think there's a lot more demand for our stuff than is being accessed. From talking to media people, we think it's going to happen."
Although the ESPN/CBS deal was for 15 years at more than $3 billion, the league is able to renegotiate because of a provision in the contract that kicked in with expansion.
Slive has been tight-lipped at the spring meetings about the TV discussions but acknowledged that Missouri and Texas A&M bring added value for future media rights.
"I'll let you know when we're finished," he said. "We're in discussion with both TV partners and believe there is significant added value for a lot of reasons with these institutions."
The league acknowledged that a network is one option under consideration. The success of the Big Ten's venture, now in its fifth year, is reason enough.
Big Ten schools received about $27 million each from the network from 2008 to 2011 and are expected to pocket $7.2 million this year. The BTN has seen its revenue grow every year, hitting $242 million in 2011 with a profit of $79.2 million, according to figures from SNL Kagan, which does analysis on the media and communications industry.
"I look at the Big Ten Network and what it's done for my colleagues," Alden said, "and I know it's provided tremendous growth as far as exposure, recruiting around the country, ability to promote other content other than athletics, and obviously the revenue side has been significant.
"If you look at that model and knowing the SEC has a footprint as big, if not bigger, than the Big Ten, it would seem if there is anything like that it would have a tremendous impact on a league as strong as the SEC."
Although Missouri is not going to receive a full revenue share from the league for some time, Alden said what he sees "in the tea leaves" will make the wait worthwhile.
South Carolina President Harris Pastides, on the other hand, said there could be a downside to a conference network.
"Certainly financially, looking at the viewers and giving the viewers more flexibility would be a good thing," he said. "What are the negatives? Overexposure, maybe. I don't think any of us would claim that our universities aren't seen enough now."
An SEC network could take on several forms. The BTN partners with Fox, which owns 51 percent. The Pac-12 network, which will launch in August, will be fully owned by the league.
The SEC may have added to its TV bargaining power with the recent news that its champion will face the Big 12 champ in a bowl game starting in 2014.
"There are a lot of people interested," Slive said. "I was a little surprised. The interest was overwhelming and there was a sense this was something new and different."