I am a U-verse subscriber so I have no issues and the pricing has remained stable since I first signed on several years ago.
Since the SEC and ESPN officially announced the creation of an SEC Network (that will launch in August), we’ve warned that you, the fan, will likely be caught in the middle of a lengthy crossfire. ESPN and the SEC were expected to charge cable and satellite providers big bucks to air their new channel. Those providers would not want to pay for yet another sports network. And that would leave you to “call your local cable operator” and demand your SEC Network.
While we still expect some of these carriage deals to go right down to the wire (and possibly past it), there is some good news on the provider front… even as the SEC and ESPN set prices very high.
The Sports Business Daily reported yesterday that providers in the 11-state SEC footprint are being asked to pay a rate of $1.30 per month per subscriber. Folks, that’s a lot. The Big Ten charges just $1.00 inside its footprint and its been on the air since 2007. (Outside the SEC region the price will be just 25 cents per month per subscriber.)
While not as expensive as some of the numbers kicked around by other websites — which we’ve always said were over-inflated — the cost will still likely be high enough to lead to plenty of last-minute haggling.
To date, tiny start-up AT&T U-verse is the only carrier to have locked in and announced a deal with ESPN/SEC. But The Sports Business Daily says that’s about to change. Dish Network is expected to finalize a deal that will enable the satellite provider to carry the network from its launch. Interestingly, the co-founder of Dish and chairman of its board is Charlie Ergen, a University of Tennessee graduate and booster. Having an “SEC guy” at the top of the Dish Network org chart couldn’t have hurt. Dish boasts 14 million subscribers. For each of those subscribers within the SEC footprint, ESPN will be paid $1.30 per month. The SEC will be paid out of ESPN’s loot.
DirecTV, Comcast, Time-Warner and other providers have yet to ink deals, but it’s a positive sign that a major group like Dish has jumped on board. That might help with the negotiations between ESPN/SEC and DirecTV, Dish’s main competitor in the satellite biz.
So how should you the consumer be feeling about this news? If you’re a Dish subscriber, good. It sounds as though you’ll have the SEC Network from the get-go, though there’s no word on how much Dish might mark up the pricing for the SEC Network.
If you get your television via DirecTV, Comcast, Time-Warner or another group, cautious optimism is the mood of the day. First, because a major distributor is about to jump on board and put some pressure on your provider. Second, because it sounds as if talk of the SEC and ESPN asking for basic-tier placement is not part of the current negotiations.
That said, we’d still be surprised if many of you didn’t have to “call your cable operator and ask for the SEC Network.”