February 20th, 2014 01:30 PM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: DIRECTV, ESPN, SEC, TV
Yesterday it was reported that DirecTV officials are responding to SEC fans’ emails asking for the new SEC Network with a “not at this time” type of form email. SEC fans immediately took to Twitter to slap some sense into the satellite giant.
But here’s the thing: We’ve been saying since Day One that the SEC and ESPN will be in for one helluva fight to land their start-up network on the nation’s biggest carrier in time for its August launch date. Here’s what we wrote back on May 2nd of last year, just moments after the SEC/ESPN press conference to formally announce the channel’s creation:
“AT&T U-verse was announced as the SEC’s initial carriage partner. Not to sneeze at AT&T U-verse, but the fact that a more well-known provider such as DirecTV, Comcast or Time-Warner isn’t onboard already might give you a pretty good idea of what ESPN and the SEC are charging for carriage. Meaning: A lot. Asked about other distributors, ESPN’s reps pointed out multiple times that AT&T U-verse is the fastest growing distributor in the country. Fine. But you the viewer need to prepare for the carriage battles we’ve warned you about.”
So, technically, we’ve been talking about the wars to come since before Day One. But did you notice that we listed DirecTV first in our list? That’s because DirecTV at that time did not carry the Pac-12 Network(s). Well, it still doesn’t. And having just inked a fresh new agreement to hold onto the NFL “Sunday Ticket” package, you can be certain that the folks at DirecTV are feeling that they’re in a position of power when it comes to their SEC/ESPN negotiations.
According to OutkickTheCoverage.com, SEC fans emailing DirecTV have received this email:
“I understand you would like to know if SEC Network will be available on DIRECTV. We know how important it is for you to have access to this channel to keep your service.
After careful review, I have confirmed that DIRECTV has no current plans to carry the SEC Network. While we are unable to comment on future programming decisions, we are always reviewing our programming options to make sure we bring you the best possible TV experience. Thus, I have forwarded your request to DIRECTV Management for future consideration. We often make changes based on customer feedback like yours.”
Honest translation: “You’ll get the channel when the SEC and ESPN stop demanding a fee that we won’t pay… and your email has bupkes to do with that.”
DirecTV’s stance is not at all unexpected. As we’ve warned on numerous occasions, these types of negotiations often turn ugly and just as often they aren’t settled until right before or right after a new channel launches. (Or in the Pac-12′s case, never.) This particular battle is only now heating up.
MrSEC.com has learned that the SEC office recently assigned a group of MBA students at at least one member university to dream up an online campaign that will put pressure on cable/satellite-providers to pick up the SEC Network. This is how the game is played. There’s a reason the phrase, “Call your local cable-provider” has become part of our national lexicon.
While the DirecTV email — and its authenticity — are debated on Twitter, it’s still believed that the SEC Network is set to announce Dish Network as a partner at some point. As we noted last month, Dish co-founder Charlie Ergen is a University of Tennessee graduate and booster. He also oversees America’s second-place satellite provider. Obviously, then, there are a couple of reasons for Dish to pick up the SEC Network before DirecTV does.
To date, the SEC Network is still officially partnered only with AT&T U-verse, a company that as of November had 10 million subscribers nationwide. DirecTV has 20 million subscribers. Dish has 14 million. The new ConHugeCo merger of Comcast and Time Warner will give that behemoth 33 million subscribers, or about 70% of American households.
You think the DirecTV negotiations could turn nasty? If Comcast’s conquest of Time Warner gets regulatory approval, that SEC Network battle could go nuclear. If nothing else, it would seem that any inroads the SEC and ESPN might have made with one or both of those cable giants would be complicated by the news of their marriage.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, there’s a good chance many SEC fans won’t be getting the SEC Network when it launches in August. And with the SEC putting three football games per Saturday on its channel, that’ll lead to a lot more angry consumers emailing or calling their cable/satellite-providers.
Which is exactly what the SEC desires.
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