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SEC Network Launching As More People Demand A La Carte Programming

sec-network-final-logo-smallThe new SEC Network is in for a fight.  Actually, it’s in for several fights.

As we’ve explained over the past several weeks, cable and satellite providers don’t like adding new channels.  That’s because they have to pay fees to new networks in order to carry (and re-sell) their programming.  Inevitably, the more they pay and the more channels they add, the higher your monthly bill rises.  The provider’s costs are passed along to its viewers.

Cable and satellite companies have tried to protect themselves from a large-scale subscriber revolt by bundling similar channels together.  Want premium movie channels?  You pay extra.  Want sports channels?  You pay extra.

More importantly, the family that doesn’t want extra movie or sports channels doesn’t have to pay any increased monthly fees.

But with so many channels now available, viewers are now growing tired of bundling, too.  A person might be willing to pay for the NFL Network and some extra regional sports networks, but that doesn’t mean he wants to be charged for the bull-riding or soccer channels.  Or vice versa.  A la carte programming is a desire shared by many.

On top of the “bundling versus a la carte” debate, many viewers are now choosing to get programming from a specific network by subscribing to that channel — or another provider — online.  More and more families are bringing content into their televisions via the internet with special TV hookups, video game consoles, or other devices/services.

Into all of that upheaval… enter the SEC Network.

Yesterday, Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News provided a broad overview of the current programming landscape and how the SEC Network might fit into it.  We linked you to it in our Sunday headlines, but in case you missed it, we wanted to push it again.  You should read it.

The more we as a society get used to instant answers to our questions — thanks, World Wide Web — the more we expect simple answers.  “When will I get the SEC Network?”  “How much will I pay for the network?”  “Can I just sign up for the network and nothing else?”

Unfortunately, as we’ve mentioned before, there are no simple answers on the SEC Network front.  Everything comes down to you where you live, your cable or satellite provider, and that provider’s willingness to cut a deal with ESPN/SEC.  Solomon’s column simply hammers home the point that how we view television is changing and that will impact the SEC’s new channel.

If you want simple, you’re outta luck.  The process by which providers add networks more often than not gets messy.  And the current television landscape — cable, satellite, bundling, a la carte, online, on-demand — is messier still.

Into all of that upheaval… enter the SEC Network.

The channel will make money and eventually you should be able to see it.  But you’d best be ready for a long, hard slog.  The Pac-12 Network, for example, launched last August and it’s still not on DirecTV.

How patient will SEC fans be?  Probably not very.  The thought of missing three football games every Saturday will likely lead some to pull their hair out, which is exactly what ESPN and the SEC are counting on.  The angrier you become, the more likely you’ll be to call your cable or satellite provider and demand the channel, thus upping the pressure on that provider to yield to ESPN and the SEC’s price demands (which will then be passed back to you).

What’s ironic is that before 2009 and the SEC’s twin contracts with ESPN and CBS, many SEC games weren’t on television.  After four years of nearly every SEC game getting national coverage, there’s now an expectation that any SEC game you want to see will be available.  Come next August, for some, that will no longer be the case.



Do you have an opinion on how the bundling / a la carte debate will go?  At one end of the spectrum is the current tiered model with only a few bundles.  At the other end is the end-customer choosing one-by-one all of the individual channels.  I'd tend to think that neither extreme will work. 

And, no, you won't end up spending less -- at least not by a meaningful amount -- even with more choices to add/remove channels. 

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