The Southeastern Conference is once again counting on Tim Tebow to give it a boost.
College football's premiere conference and ESPN are about six months away from launching the SEC Network.
While television executives are still negotiating with cable providers for coveted channel space so that fans can see the network, those who lead programming operations are working on making a splash when it launches Aug. 21 with a hefty dose of football and Tebow.
"We've focused on football early on because it's the first thing that's going to debut on the network," said Justin Connolly, who is the senior vice president for programming at ESPN.
The planning includes searching for the right mix of on-air talent and analysts for the network's studio shows.
That's where Tebow comes into play.
The network hired the former Florida Gators quarterback in December as a college football analyst for "SEC Nation," joining ESPN's Joe Tessitore, who will host the pregame show for the network's live football coverage. Connolly said while the lineup is still being set, it is likely ESPN commentator and veteran SEC radio host Paul Finebaum will be involved in the show. Finebaum spent the past season as a regular contributor to ESPN's College GameDay coverage.
Tebow's performance as a guest analyst during the BCS National Championship Game in January drew rave reviews, making it clear the network he could make the transition from playing the game to discussing it regularly on television.
"The guy lives up to every bit of hyperbole that has ever been thrown out in terms of his work ethic," Connolly said, adding Tebow would ask for as much film of both Auburn and Florida State to break down before going on air.
"He is methodical and dedicated in his preparations. Purely from a contributions standpoint, we feel very comfortable, very early here that he is going to be a difference maker."
Connolly also points out Tebow's name recognition will be a huge plus for the fledgling network.
"When we made that announcement, Twitter blew up and every major media outlet whether it be sports, style or entertainment, gravitated to it," Connolly said. "It just reflects the kind of personality he has."
Tebow's star-appeal has created new challenges as well.
"Our guys who handle security when our talent goes on the road actually noted, 'Hey, we haven't seen anything like this before and we may want to think about how we make sure the guy can get from Point A to Point B so that he's on time when you start the show,'" Connolly said. "So there are little things like that are unique to Tim Tebow."
Those concerns will need to be addressed before the "SEC Nation" heads to Columbia, S.C., on Aug. 28 ahead of the network's season-opener game between Texas A&M and South Carolina. It's the first of a doubleheader, with the second contest featuring Temple at Vanderbilt.
While the network has considerable air time to fill, Connolly said fans shouldn't expect a slew of Thursday night football games.
"At least today, the plan is not to make Thursday a regular window," he said. "Obviously, it's easier early in the season and there are some windows late in the season, but I don't anticipate a whole lot of Thursdays."
You can expect the network to regularly broadcast three games on Saturday, including the opening weekend. While the matchups haven't been determined, Connolly says you can expect to find Tessitore, Tebow and the "SEC Nation" show originating each week from a different college campus, including Week One at Auburn ahead of the Tigers' game against Arkansas.
"We think that will be a great atmosphere," he said.
As the new network continues to move toward its debut, one of the biggest challenges could be distribution. The SEC Network already has a distribution deal with AT&T U-verse and Connolly said the process of adding more agreements has "been consistent with our expectations."
"Obviously we love having AT&T U-verse on board and I would say we are in varying degrees of progress with different distributors," he said. "Our push here is to try and get everyone on board prior to launch, but we know it's going to take some time."
The agreement doesn't cover Comcast, Bright House Networks and a slew of other cable providers in Florida.
UF Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley urged fans to visit getsecnetwork.com to get instructions on how to ask their cable providers to add the new SEC Network during a radio appearance with Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi.
"At the end of the day, everyone in the state is hopefully going to have access to some premiere live events," Foley said during the radio show. "In the short term, there'll be some pain."