The Southeastern Conference is cemented among the sporting elite with a worldwide fanbase. However, some fans may be left out of watching their school this fall because of their television provider.
As ESPN prepares to launch the new SEC Network on Aug. 14, some television service providers are in last-minute negotiations to bring a 24-hour SEC experience to their viewers. While carriers such as CBS will still broadcast games that will attract the most viewers, the SEC Network will focus strictly on the conference. Cable One, whose only market in Alabama is the Anniston area, is still in talks with ESPN’s parent company, Disney.
“We are optimistic that this new contract will include the addition of the SEC Network in time for their August launch,” wrote Trish Neimann, Cable One Public Relations Director, in an emailed statement.
Neimann also wrote that customer response to the SEC Network has shown how important this channel is to people in the Southeast.
“We have received feedback from our customers in our Southeast markets that this is a channel they would love to have in their lineup, so we’re doing everything we can to make that happen,” she wrote.
While SEC sports is a huge draw in the Southeast, Neimann wrote that viewers in other parts of the country might want in on the action, too. Cable One’s territory includes many markets in the upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest.
In the Anniston area, Cable One is not the only firm thinking ahead to football season. According to representatives from each provider, AT&T’s U-verse and Dish Network have already finalized deals to carry the channel, while DirecTV remains in talks with Disney.
Negotiations like Cable One’s efforts to secure the SEC Network are becoming more common. Jeff Kagan, a technology industry analyst based in Atlanta, said the television game is about to change and competition is about to evolve with customers’ needs.
“The television industry is in transition,” he said. “There will be a lot of frustrated users and it will continue to be that way for the next few years. There are a number of companies coming in to compete and if customers can’t get what they want from one competitor, they will start looking at others.”
Cable One in recent years has found itself in public disputes with Turner Broadcasting System and Viacom over carrying those companies’ cable channels.
Major providers such as AT&T and Dish Network are some of the companies under threat from change, Kagan said, due to the rising use of new, cheaper platforms. However, sports may be the major providers trump card.
“There are other competitors moving in that are going after different slices of the pie like Netflix and Hulu, but when it comes to sports networks, it’s really expensive,” he said. “Traditionally, it is only the larger competitors that can offer it.”
Kagan said major providers who choose not to offer a channel with the assumed popularity of the SEC Network would face major competition for subscribers from providers that do offer the network. With each provider trying to out-price and out-offer the other, this may be a good thing for the customers, Kagan said.
“This all turns up the competitive pressure on all of the providers and if they are not offering it now, maybe they will as the next few weeks go by. But it is important to realize that when carriers decide to fight back at the rising costs, they are doing it to protect their customers,” he said.
At the end of the day, Kagan said, the customer is always right.
“Customers are going to be looking for another way and who else will offer it,” he said, “This is an industry that needs to be rebuilt.”
Staff Writer Ryan Phillips: 256-235-3553. On Twitter @rphillips_Star.