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SEC to part ways with CBS, go all-in with ABC/ESPN

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A longtime partnership will be coming to an end.

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl - Alabama v Oklahoma Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Fans of SEC teams who have howled about long CBS commercial breaks and annoying commentary from Gary Danielson will soon be getting a reprieve, as the longtime network partner has reportedly walked away from negotiations for a contract extension. As had been speculated previously, Disney has come to the table with a package that CBS was never likely to match.

Multiple sources said ESPN/ABC is in the final stages of negotiating a deal that is expected to pay more than six times the $55 million per year fee that CBS currently pays, sources said. Fox Sports execs still are planning to make an official bid presentation at SEC HQ in Birmingham next month. But sources say ESPN’s negotiations are in the final stages. ESPN and Fox Sports would not comment.

CBS plans to carry SEC football for the four seasons it has left on its contract, unless the conference or winning network is able to buy it out.

That last sentence is very interesting. It was expected that any change would take place four years down the road, but the prospect of a buyout seems plausible depending on what amount CBS would demand. Could we see this move happen as soon as next season?

There are advantages to working with just one network. Juggling two different contracts was confusing and cumbersome. CBS had an exclusive window for SEC broadcasts in the afternoon that required all ESPN offerings to be pushed early and late. With this new deal, ESPN will be able to kick off three SEC games in the afternoon if they so desire, which should spread things out a bit. They will also be able to show big games in prime time, though that comes with a caveat.

Ohio State fans have complained about Fox abusing them to boost ratings in the noon time slot. Like Alabama, they are by far the biggest ratings draw in their conference and fans will tune in to watch no matter when they play. In that case, it is undoubtedly profitable to play the cash cow in the slot with the most room for growth and use the prime slots to boost ratings for lesser draws. Considering the amount of money in this deal, they will undoubtedly be looking to squeeze every penny they can out of advertisers, and for Alabama fans that has to be a concern.

We will see how it all shakes out, but in the end it seems clear that the SEC will have a new television home and the Gary Danielson era will be coming to an end. Thoughts?

Roll Tide.