Earlier it was announced that the Kentucky Wildcats Basketball tour in the Bahamas would be televised after all. However, half the games would be on ESPN-U and the other half would be on the fledgling SEC Network. And all of a sudden, at least among Kentucky fans, the need to get the SEC Network went from a wait and see approach to an “I must have this by mid August” approach. Granted, it’s great that the games will be televised, but with the majority of the SEC area not scheduled to get the SEC Network, you have to wonder if it is time to actually start worrying about the SEC Network and if carrying the Kentucky games was a strong-arm ploy by ESPN to get the carriers on board.
As of right now, AT&T U-verse and the Dish Network are the only two national providers to publicly announce it is carrying the Network. And that leaves a whole lot of SEC fans without coverage for the upcoming football season. For SEC fans in Florida like myself, satellite dishes are not very reliable and frequently lose service during thunderstorms. With Florida being one of the thunderstorm capitals of the world, satellite is simply not an option. And in Orlando, AT&T has been very slow to expand their U-verse service. For about two years, my brother who lives about 2.5 miles away has U-verse and while so tantalizingly close, is so far from being a reality.
It is almost surreal to think that Orlando, the #19 television market in the country (and about 75% Gator fans) will be shut out of the SEC Network, but it is possible. Other SEC fans in other markets are starting to get desperate as well and are getting a less than promising response from their cable carriers:
My wife emailed Suddenlink on whether it would be carrying the SEC Network. Here’s the response she received:
“Thank you for your email in regards to the SEC network. I appreciate the opportunity to assist you today.
“At this time we have not gotten word if we will be offering the network. We are working diligently to have this channel available to our customers. That is not to say that we will not be offering the channel. Keep checking back with us. I apologize for the inconvenience.
The story is the same across the SEC. And even the head of the SEC Network is getting concerned. Justin Connolly expressed these concerns:
Connolly said they feel good about where they are with getting national exposure, but there’s still work to do to sign up Charter, which services much of Birmingham, where viewership would be high. In fact, Birmingham had higher ratings for the BCS National Championship games than they did for the Super Bowl, he said.
“To be honest, it’s alarming (Charter) hasn’t signed up already, but deals often are made closer to launch,” said Connolly, the vice president of college networks for ESPN, which will run the station out of Charlotte, N.C.
Connolly said they are in “active conversations with every major distributor,” and when asked about Bright House and Charter specifically – two of Alabama’s largest cable operators – he said “back and forth discussions” are underway, but he didn’t want to say too much.