ICYMI: Is it time to worry about the SEC Network?

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Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

To be honest, Connolly’s concern should be concerning to all SEC fans. Especially when the fate of the network is hanging in the hands of cable companies who have clashed with ESPN in the past and may be getting tired of ESPN’s tactics.

It all comes down to carriage deals with cable giants Comcast and Time Warner who have yet to announce anything about adding the SEC Network. The two behemoths cover about 33% of the United States and perhaps larger portions of the SEC TV footprint. And even though Bright House Networks is technically no longer a part of TWC anymore, Bright House still apparently relies on TWC to negotiate carriage deals and channel lineups.

The situation is worrisome in Florida. Comcast is the states biggest provider and Bright House is second. Bright House has 1.8M subscribers in Orlando and Tampa alone, and this is a key area for Gator support. Given that TWC’s stalemates with cable companies have gotten nastier with each battle. Just a year ago, TWC withheld its paying customers from CBS and Showtime programming for nearly a month. With the SEC football season starting on August 30th, the stage is set for a similar  battle between ESPN and the cable companies.

And of course it is all about money. ESPN reportedly is charging cable companies a $1.30 per customer carriage fee for the SEC Network. By comparison, the Big Ten Network charges $1.00 carriage fee in its eleven state footprint. It adds up. Using the Tampa/Orlando number of 1.8M subscribers, Bright House would have to pay ESPN about $540,000 more a month to make the SEC Network available than it would for the Big Ten Network. So there is greed on both sides.

And SEC fans in the #9 (Atlanta), #14 (Tampa), #16 (Miami), #19 (Orlando) and #29 (Nashville) markets and even Missouri fans in #21 St. Louis market may lose out.

And it’s a bit more than curious that Tim Brando recently jumped ship from the SEC Network to the Fox Network.  Could Brando have seen the writing on the wall and gotten a premonition that the SEC Network not be able to reach most of the SEC fans?

And now comes the announcement that the SEC Network will air half of the Kentucky Bahama’s Tour.  Granted, ESPN-U would have given Kentucky’s fanbase access to the games, but as we have discussed, this struggle has NOTHING to do with the fans.  Granted, Kentucky fans are going to flood their cable providers with a couple of million calls this month about adding the SEC Network.  And ESPN know what a hidden gem these three basketball games will be for them.

Before, there was no pressure to add the SEC Network before August 28th.  Now the stakes have been raised.  Even if the rest of the SEC cares nothing about these August games, Kentucky fans will.  And now ESPN has the luxury of the Big Blue Nation to do their dirty work of putting pressure on cable providers a couple of weeks before the SEC football fans start to really freak out.

And the most frustrating thing of this whole battle is that ESPN and the cable companies have proven that the needs of the fans do not matter here.  ESPN could easily offer this as a paid monthly  item (like HBO) and I’m sure that a couple million of SEC fans would find a way to fork out an extra $9.99 a month (if that were the price).  But instead, the carriage deal puts an extra $1.30 on top of EVERY customer, regardless of if they even care about the SEC or sports in general.

And everybody loses out.  Except for ESPN and the cable companies.  And all we can do is take it and hope both sides can get as rich off us as possible.

It’s a shame.

But yea, go here to request the SEC Network and make your voice heard.  Again.

What else can we do?