SEC Network Q&A: Charlie Hussey, Assistant Commissioner, SEC

The run-up to today’s launch of the SEC Network has brought change not only to ESPN and the 14 SEC schools but also to the conference office itself.

Linear- and digital-rights mazes had to be navigated so that yesterday’s dream could become reality today. And in the time since the network was announced in spring 2013, there has been intensive effort to ensure that the conference is prepared for its multimedia future.

At the SEC, Charlie Hussey is the conference face of the SEC Network. He has been a full-time member of the staff since 2000 and most recently held the position of assistant commissioner for marketing and licensing. Now he’s the conference’s TV- and digital-network guru.

Hussey, a member of the SVG College Advisory Committee, sat down with SVG to chat about his new role, his expectations for the network, and what it’s like working with Commissioner Mike Slive.

As someone who has been with the conference for a while, how much has your day-to-day life changed since the SEC Network project was announced?

Charlie Hussey, SEC

Charlie Hussey, SEC

My responsibilities have changed quite a bit. I was already working with some television, sponsorships, marketing, and licensing, but, upon announcing the network, Commissioner Slive felt like we should have a fulltime staff member dedicated to all things SEC Network-related. That was an opportunity he gave me, which I am appreciative of and I’ve enjoyed. It’s been busy. I work as a middle man between the conference, ESPN, and our schools to facilitate different issues that come about.

What are your primary responsibilities?
It’s really anything that’s going with the network that involves our schools and their relationship with ESPN. It can be anything from the digital infrastructures being built out to working through marketing elements and plans for the network. It could be content discussions. So it’s a whole realm of things.

How pleased are you with how your member institutions have responded to this and how they have gotten themselves ready for this launch?
It’s been incredible. I think to sit here today and say that we’re going to be basically fully distributed prelaunch is a testament to the fans of the SEC, ESPN, and especially our schools, who all stuck together and stayed the course in doing what needed to be done to get the network launched. Yeah, schools were at different levels from the standpoint of a digital build-out, but a lot of our schools were already pretty well-suited for this.

What we’ve really created here is a unique infrastructure to showcase SEC sports like never before. There’s fiber running through all of our campuses back to [SEC Network headquarters in] Charlotte, [NC], back to [ESPN headquarters in] Bristol, [CT]. We really do have a unique build-out that’s going to maximize our investment and the exposure of our sports.

The answer to this question is usually distribution, but you are in pretty good shape in that department. From your perspective, what would you deem a success at the end of this first year?
You’re right, it’s certainly distribution going in. I think, during year one, we will continue to fine-tune our programming and the content. I’m really excited about the plans we have in place. But I think, just like any business, we’ll grow and we’ll learn what works better than other things.

For students who are looking to work in video production and are enrolled in your schools’ communication departments, what do you think of the opportunities presented here for them?
I think it’s fantastic. ESPN already has lined up for us an internship program where students from our institutions can go to Charlotte or Bristol and learn the business. ESPNU has their Campus Connection program, where ESPN will come to a school and produce an event. Now, with the network, since the schools are producing a lot of the events, it just opens the door for a whole world of new learning opportunities for students.

What has it been like working with Commissioner Slive on this project?
It’s been fun to watch. He does a great job and is always prepared when working with ESPN and our schools and working through the issues that might be there. I may be partial, but I think he’s the best in the business at what he does, so to be there right next to him has been a lot of fun.

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