David Teel of the Daily Press posted some interesting info regarding how the ACC was distributing more cash to its members for a few years compared to the SEC until pulled ahead. Here is Teel's article and it is a very interesting read.
Cash from television rights isn't the only thing to blame, but it made a big difference in the SEC's number. The conference received $51.2 million in football TV revenue in 2005-06. Now the average for the existing contract is right around $200 million per year. What changed that allowed the number to jump so sharply?
1) The SEC gave ESPN everything that CBS didn't take in football. When the new SEC deal was signed, a team could air no more that one game on PPV. Look at 2008 and 2007. Some teams aired at least 3 PPV in those years. Teams often make little money off the PPVs because of the cost incurred to self-produce those games with the intention of airing live, even though the telecast itself may be used as part of a replay package. A few games in those years went without TV too.
Now that ESPN has everything, each game gets monetized, except for the possible one game per year, per school. ESPNU is now in use to televise games weekly and the rest of the schedule reaches more eyeballs through regional cable and syndication (more on that in point #3).
2) More basketball for ESPN. Yes, basketball doesn't make up the largest part of the SEC television revenue disbursement, but ESPN gained a lot more in the deal. They paid for every conference game and a handful of non-conference games. Under the old deals, ESPN often aired only one game per week (Super Tuesday) with a rare Saturday game. When JP Sports aired 1-2 Wednesday night games, the rest of the schedule went without TV. If CBS, JP or FOX Sports South didn't take a game on Saturday or Sunday, it often went without TV.
During conference season, ESPN gave the SEC a minimum of two games per week on ESPN/ESPN2, at least one game during the week on ESPNU, kept alive syndication and gave Comcast a package of weeknight games. On the weekends, CBS remained in the picture and FOX Sports aired a package of Saturday night games. ESPN would often pick up one game and syndication took the rest.
In short, the SEC was able to get more viewers for their basketball games by getting them out to the masses through more delivery options.
3) No more "red tape" in syndication. ESPN now runs the syndication package for both football and men's basketball, in addition to the licensing of games for regional airing on FOX Sports RSNs and a package managed by Comcast. When JP Sports & Raycom managed the syndication packages, it appears that ESPN limited their ability to provide those games to areas outside of SEC territory. My guess is that ESPN wanted to protect their PPV packages (Game Plan & Full Court) in those out-of-market areas. Now that ESPN manages syndication, they are more aggressive when it comes to marketing the SEC. In 2011-12, the SEC Network football package reached 70% of the US (81 million homes), picking up affiliates in New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and in far-flung areas like Honolulu and Spokane.
More reach, more eyeballs = more viewers for the SEC, more available advertisers for ESPN to pitch the content too.
Even the regional packages on cable hit more homes. The FOX games periodically aired on RSNs outside of SEC markets (same with the Comcast package appearing on some of their RSNs). Games on regional cable >>> games on PPV.