Tennessee weathers impact from COVID due to SEC contributions

UT needed a bailout from the SEC to meet its budget and mitigate the impact of the pandemic, a one-time advance on future conference revenueGETTY IMAGES

Tennessee’s athletics department “operated at a six-figure surplus” during FY '21, “weathering the financial impact" of the pandemic because of a $23M league-wide supplemental bailout from the SEC, according to Adam Sparks of the KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL. FY ‘21 “featured an operating surplus of $757,598.” That is “better than the $488,857 deficit” for FY ‘20 and “similar to the $789,730 surplus” for the pre-pandemic FY ‘19. UT “needed a bailout” from the SEC "to meet its budget and mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic.” The SEC “provided each member school” a $23.3M supplemental revenue distribution, "which was part of" UT’s overall $29M share. The payout "was a one-time advance on future SEC revenue projected from a lucrative TV contract," beginning in '25, under which ESPN "will be taking over" the package of football games currently held by CBS. Each school also received a $4M signing bonus for that ESPN agreement, which was included in UT's $29M conference distribution. UT reported $132.9M in operating revenue, from which 22% “came from the SEC distribution.” It reported $132.1M in operating expenses. UT paid $5.4M in severance to coaches and administrators, including former AD Phillip Fulmer. UT’s revenue from ticket sales dropped $25.5M and concessions fell $3M from FY ‘20 because COVID-19 protocols “limited attendance at football games” (KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL, 1/19).

SBJ Spotlight: TikTok’s threat to traditional sports media

While tech companies are consumed with finding ways to compete with TikTok, almost no one in conventional media “spends any time talking about it,” said Recode senior correspondent Peter Kafka in an Spotlight interview with SBJ’s John Ourand. “To me, that’s just an obvious disconnect.” Kafka authored a recent column headlined, “It’s TikTok’s world. Can TV live in it?” He said the main response to TikTok’s growth from traditional media execs has been to “punt and hope it’s someone else’s problem a quarter from now or two years from now.” But Kafka said that ignores the trend of conventional broadcast audiences growing older while a billion younger consumers spend most of their media time watching short video after short video. “If you’re in the business of getting anyone under the age of 30 to look at what you’re putting on a screen, you have to think about the fact that you’re probably asking them to put down TikTok and watch your thing instead,” said Kafka. “That’s a very difficult ask. … [TikTok] is insanely addictive.”

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