"Stay calm, and you'll all get out of this alive!"
You know you're getting old when you hear about an intriguing new venture like the SEC Network and your first thought is, "How much is this going to cost me?"
Welcome to my world. Creaky joints. A malingering sense of ennui that comes from growing up listening to grunge. Bitching about having an extra 80 cents tacked on to your cable every month.
Unfortunately, you do start sounding like your parents, too. As in, “What’s wrong with the college football you’ve already got?”
Don’t get me wrong here. Like the rest of you, I’m going to contact my cable provider at some point between now and August 2014 to let some customer service rep in India know that I’d like to see the SEC Network added to my cable package. If ESPN and the SEC really do plan to put Florida-Missouri behind the paywall, I’ll pay. I’d at least like the opportunity to watch it, even though I probably won’t. (I mean, I actually shell out for ESPN GamePlan now. Have you ever had the pleasure of watching Arkansas scrape by an upset bid from Louisiana-Monroe on HogVision?)
But I watch a ton of SEC football, and since the advent of digital cable, I can’t think of one time that I haven’t had access to a game that I wanted to watch. If it wasn’t on CBS in the afternoon, I could get it on ESPN. If it wasn’t on ESPN, I could get it on ESPN2. CW might have had it. Hell, if I really wanted to watch South Carolina-Wofford, I could order it on pay-per-view.
Now 45 of those games are moving to a brand new channel with brand new carriage wars to be waged. Wrapped around those 45 football games will be filler like coaches’ shows and highlight programs on a monotonous overnight loop. The majority of subscribers would never see them unless their fingers slipped on the remote.
In other words, but for the live sports, these new channels would have negligible value. (And by "live sports," I mean football.)
The Worldwide Leader is doing this because rather than just upping fees on the products that it already offers — which will happen, too — the suits know they can make more money right now by forcing the cable carriers to charge everyone every month for a new channel. It’s a smart way to chisel every nickel possible out of the current TV business model.
It also means collecting even higher subscriptions fees from a whole bunch of people who could give a damn about a new product with no value to them. Eventually, those little extra increases that they’re paying every month add up to a lot, and the growing list of alternatives to cable start to look pretty attractive.
If more subscribers start “cutting the cord,” it sets off a fun little vicious circle of rate increases for subscribers. As rates increase, more subscribers are lost, fees go up again, and on and on. All of a sudden, being a sports fan just got a lot more expensive.
So while fans thump their chests over the latest spoils of the sports media frenzy, they might want to keep in mind that we're the ones paying for all this. It would be a lot easier to just write Mike Slive a check.