So what does the SEC need to do?
1) Fix scheduling - In a world with an SEC Network, 11/17/12 cannot happen. I know that the schools want a tune up game going into their rivalry games, either within the conference or against an ACC team, but 11/17/12 (and its counterpart from last year, 11/15/11) were some of the leanest schedules I've seen for the SEC. The conference needs to have teams push those to early in the season, or at least do a better job of spreading them out throughout the year.
2) Get conference games for the network - The SBJ articles mentions 2014 as the earliest a SEC Network could start because of existing agreements with FOX and Comcast. That will certainly provide content, at least in men's basketball where that will cover a couple conference games per week, but they probably need to ditch the SEC Network syndication package (12:21pm ET football games, Wednesday & Saturday basketball games). The FOX and Comcast packages today don't provide enough quality content, particularly in football
Conference games on FOX & Comcast regional packages
2009: 4 (Total games: 14)
2010: 5 (Total games: 15)
2011: 3 (Total games: 15)
There were a few games sprinkled in vs. AQ competition in non-conference games too, so those do have some value. If you add the PPV games to these, that's still a lot of weak sauce that isn't worth paying a big buck for. They'll need at least the syndication package, and maybe some of the ESPNU games too, to make it worthwhile
3) Guarantee the conference network gets top or 2nd choice - Big Ten Network has 2nd choice some weeks. Pac-12 Network has top choice or 2nd choice. The regional cable packages are usually low on the totem pole, hence the lack of conference games. The network would be smart to get top choice in the 1st or 2nd week of the season (when CBS isn't picking games due to tennis) and get 2nd choice a couple times.
Of course, if they take the games off ESPNU or syndication, they'll have choices that will be of interest.
4) Guarantee that every team appears in a conference game - Both the Big Ten Network and Pac-12 Network have clauses in their primary deals with networks to ensure that all teams appear on the conference network:
- Big Ten Network - Each team must make two appearances on BTN and one must be a conference game
- Pac-12 Network - FOX and ESPN can claim a team for no more than nine appearances as part of the Pac-12 TV contract. Since the Pac-12 has nine conference games, the Pac-12 Network either gets a school as part of a non-conference home game, or is ESPN/FOX pick a non-conference game from a school, one of their conference games will be on the Pac-12 Network.
CBS does have limits for how many times they can select a team to appear (no more than six times with an exception for seven, SEC Championship excluded), so it is built in that games are available for ESPN to have from every school. That needs to extend to an SEC Network with limits on ESPN's ability to choose a team for national airing.