After weeks of speculation and inching towards the goalline, SEC Network and DirecTV have finally broken into the endzone.
The last major domino has fallen for the new conference network du jour, and SEC Network will be seen on DirecTV for the channel’s launch on August 14th. The satellite provider made things official with ESPN last night and SEC Network has now gained clearance on every major cable and satellite provider before the launch date, a hugely impressive feat in an age of bitter disputes across the industry.
Here are details from the ESPN announcement:
“Our agreement with DIRECTV continues to push the SEC Network towards one of the most successful network launches when it debuts on August 14,” said Sean Breen, Disney and ESPN Media Networks Senior Vice President, Affiliate Sales. “We’re proud to deliver the SEC Network nationwide via DIRECTV in advance of the Texas A&M and South Carolina game later this month.”
The SEC Network will deliver at least 45 exclusive SEC football games this season. Recently released pre-season polls rank seven SEC teams in the college football preseason top 25, ensuring consistently close, competitive match-ups on SEC Network. The network will also serve as an all-access pass to nationally competitive events, news and information, expert analysis, classic games and in-depth features on the most storied conference in college athletics.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said, “With opening day now firmly in sight, we are happy to count DIRECTV, the country’s largest satellite provider, among our many distributors for the SEC Network. The SEC is home to the most passionate fans in college sports and I am pleased to have such a wide distribution by launch date for the benefit of SEC fans everywhere.”
“With the launch of SEC Network just days away, we look forward to serving these legions of current and prospective students, alumni and loyal supporters with quality content and coverage nationwide,” added Justin Connolly, ESPN Senior Vice President, College Networks.
The accomplishment of SEC Network reaching their goal of nationwide distribution before it hits the airwaves should not be overlooked. One only has to look at protracted disputes between sports channels and content providers to see a rocky history filled with protracted impasses. Even in the conference network space, it took a while for BTN to gain clearance on Time Warner Cable and Pac 12 Networks still aren’t available on DirecTV.
Really, this is about the power of the two brands at hand – SEC Network and ESPN. Because of the fan demand for the network (and the live games on the schedule), they entered these negotiations from a real position of power. And if providers began to play a little bit of hardball with the SEC, there was ESPN to exert their massive influence if need be.
Truth be told, the fact that SEC Network was able to gain distribution so easily across the nation makes me think we are underestimating the potential power and reach of this channel. It should immediately be poised to become the top conference network in the land and could even attain goals higher than that. But as SEC Network becomes more powerful in the coming years, the question has to be asked how it will affect competitive balance and continuing narratives that have benefitted the conference on the field and in the polls in the recent past.