NASA has made arrangements with ESPN to have the SEC Network available in outer space. Astronaut Barry Wilmore will be on the International Space Station starting on September 25 and assume command in November.
He’s also a big football fan and he loves to watch his alma mater Tennessee Tech as well as the SEC. So Wilmore has requested and will be able to watch Tennessee Tech games via the internet (they have wifi in space!) and the SEC Network when he’s not busy undertaking space walks and conducting various experiments in zero gravity.
Wilmore tells The Tennessean: “I don’t watch a lot of sports — my wife might not agree with that — but I do like to watch football, the SEC Game of the Week, and I try to catch Tech every chance I get.”
That is a dedicated fan.
Wilmore has plenty of experience in space. He’s been on the space shuttle and even piloted it himself in 2009. So SEC Network will have a fan watching 205 miles above the atmosphere.
On Earth, SEC Network will be available in more total homes than National Geographic Network, truTV, Fox Sports 1, Golf Channel, NFL Network, ESPNU and CBS Sports Network. With its latest pick up from Charter Communications, SEC Network will be available to a total of 91 million homes. However, when you count the cable providers which will put the channel on sports tiers (this is outside the Southeastern Conference footprint), the number is actually around 65 million.
That is still higher than CBS Sports Network (56 million), Al Jazeera America (55 million) and ESPN Classic (a paltry 30 million).
With Charter’s carriage of SEC Network, it for all intents and purposes completes ESPN’s negotiations with the major cable and satellite providers. AT&T U-Verse, Bright House, Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, Dish, Suddenlink and Time Warner Cable have all signed on, many of which came on board in the last month. The only major providers which are not are Cablevision with subscribers mainly in New York, New Jersey and the Philadelphia area and Verizon Fios. Their non-participation has not stopped the momentum for SEC Network.
With the SEC Network available in practically the entire conference footprint ahead of the August 14 launch, ESPN has to be breathing a huge sigh of relief and popping a few champagne corks. After a few months when negotiations got a little hairy, ESPN knows that SEC fans will see their teams play football without having to resort to illegal feeds or going to sports bars and that will result in ratings points for the Worldwide Leader.