At 6 p.m. Thursday, the SEC Network will make its nationwide debut, airing its flagship news and information show "SEC Now" live from all 14 SEC campuses.
Opening the network will be a video essay - featuring Peyton, Eli and Archie Manning, Shaquille O’Neal, Dara Torres and Joe Namath among the 31 voices - speaking to the tradition, pageantry and storied history of the SEC.
"SEC Now" hosts Dari Nowkhah and Maria Taylor will anchor the first live show from the network’s Charlotte, N.C., studios and will be joined by Brent Musburger as well as SEC fixtures Paul Finebaum, Greg McElroy and Booger McFarland.
The premiere night pageantry will include 21 anchors, reporters and analysts in studio and reporting live from all 14 SEC campuses.
The ESPN-based network reached deals with major TV providers - Comcast Xfinity, Cox Cable, Charter Communications, DISH Network, DirecTV and AT&T U-verse - to supply more than 20 million homes with around-the-clock Southeastern Conference sports.
You will find the network on your TV dial in Metro Atlanta on:
• AT&T U-Verse: Channel 607 and 1607 in high-definition.
• DISH Network: Channel 404 with the Hopper digital set-top box or on channels 408, 596 and 597 depending on user equipment.
• Comcast Xfinity: Channel 792 and 1738 in high-definition (varies from market to market).
• Cox Cable: Channel 77 and 1077 in high-definition.
• Charter Communications: Expanded Basic and Charter Select channels 30 and 318 in standard definition, and channel 811 in high-definition.
• DirecTV: Channel 611
• Time Warner Cable: Channels 516, 517, or 518 in standard definition, and channels 79, 80, or 417 80 in high-definition.
Cox Cable is owned by Cox Enterprises, which also owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The first SEC football game on the SEC Network will feature Texas A&M at South Carolina at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, followed by Temple at Vanderbilt at 9:15 p.m. The Georgia Bulldogs make their SEC Network debut at noon Sept. 20 against Troy.
The schools have invested millions to get the network off the ground.
Each of the 14 SEC representatives must have some sort of studio in place for live interviews that the SEC Network can access from its home base in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Some schools needed to build professional studios, hire a video staff and upgrade stadium and arena TV facilities. The schools also need the necessary equipment for visual production for games, some of which will be televised, others which will be broadcast online.
"Each school is in a little different spot coming into this," SEC associate commissioner for network relations Charlie Hussey said. "A lot of our schools had done a good amount of work already in the infrastructure for this, while others had a little further along to go.
Tennessee is constructing a $10 million studio in the first floor of its Brenda Lawson Athletic Center. Athletic department spokesman Jimmy Stanton said the studio is privately funded and will have other university uses beyond the SEC Network, such as training students in television production.
Auburn's athletic department had to use $5 million from its financial reserves, partly to add two control rooms after deciding its one control room at Jordan-Hare Stadium wasn't sufficient. The school also hired nine people in April to form an internal video department.
Other schools like Mississippi, Mississippi State and Florida already had substantial video departments because of previous investments. Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said his school spent about $750,000 — mostly on fiber optic cable to connect all facilities with the studio.
All that equipment makes it easier for schools to broadcast events themselves, and the SEC Network already has guaranteed it will air at least 40 events per school digitally. For example, South Carolina plans to broadcast about 120 home games of men's and women's soccer, volleyball, men's and women's basketball, baseball and sand volleyball this year.
LSU assistant athletic director Kevin Wagner said his school is spending over $3 million on cables to connect all of its game venues to a pair of rebuilt control rooms in the athletic administration building. Eventually, the school also will have to pay for crew members to handle broadcasts on game days.
Schools say they're comfortable making that investment because of the money and the visibility they're getting from the new network.
Tennessee officials believe prospects will be impressed when they visit campus and see players and coaches being interviewed in a state-of-the-art studio. It's just the latest example of how SEC schools continue to compete with one another in trying to build the best facilities and attract the best recruits.
This article includes information from the Associated Press.
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