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The SEC Network Moves Up Its Launch Date

datechangeThe SEC Network will arrive one week ahead of schedule.  The launch of the new SEC/ESPN channel has been moved from August 21st to August 14th.  Dish Network — who finalized a deal with ESPN’s parent Walt Disney Company earlier this week — had a hand in moving the start-up date.

ESPN’s senior VP of programming Justin Connolly told The Birmingham News:

 

“I think we looked at it as an opportunity both in consultation with Dish and then generally speaking to provide a little bit longer window of time for consumers and fans who may be making a decision in terms of provider…

As you can expect, we’re king of over the moon to have a national satellite-provider on board five months before launching.  It gives us an opportunity to make it clear to others that there’s real value to our distributors and options for consumers, too.”

 

Another possible motive of this date switch is to put more pressure on those big providers (DirecTV, Comcast/Time Warner) who’ve yet to reach a deal to carry the network.  The channel’s first live games (Texas A&M/South Carolina and Vanderbilt/Temple) won’t air until August 28th as initially scheduled, but now SEC fans will have two weeks to “miss” wall-to-wall football programming.

Knowing the fervor that surrounds the kickoff to a football season in the Southeastern Conference, this move is a bit like dangling a bag of weed in front of Willie Nelson for two weeks.  Eventually it’s gonna get smoked.

This also allows ESPN to provide more glimpses of the network on the main channel and it allows social media to do its thing.  Within seconds of the channel’s launch, those fans with the network will be giving the SEC Network a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.  Two weeks of such chatter on Twitter and Facebook should help push the interest of SEC fans into the red.  If DirecTV, for example, starts seeing customers across the South dump them for Dish Network, DirecTV will likely begin to take negotiations with ESPN a bit more seriously.  The same goes for cable-providers if they see clients switching to AT&T U-verse.

Connolly on DirecTV:

 

“It’s funny, I prefer (fans) talk about (DirecTV discussions with ESPN) because it seems to incite a Twitter riot.  We continue to have conversations across the board, including with DirecTV, and they will I’m sure take notice of the deal with Dish.”

 

They likely will.  And the more customers they start to lose to Dish, the more notice they’ll take.  We suspect the major carriers will all eventually cut deals with ESPN for the SEC Network.  It will likely take a while — perhaps into August — but the odds of the SEC Network not being picked up are slim.

Just be prepared for more back-and-forth stories on this topic all summer long.

 

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Rumored Deal Between SEC Network/Dish Only One Piece Of A Major Agreement

sec-network-logo-2jpg-bbd247c008a80ca3Back in January, The Sports Business Daily reported that Dish Network was expected to finalize a deal with the Southeastern Conference to pick up the new SEC Network.  That contract has finally been signed and the league’s start-up channel does indeed have its second partner (AT&T U-verse being the other).  As it turns out, however, the SEC Network was simply one small component of a much larger agreement.

ESPN announced yesterday that it’s parent company — The Walt Disney Company — had reached a deal with Dish that will provide that satellite-provider’s customers access to “Disney’s robust lineup of top quality sports, news and entertainment content across televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and connected devices.”

Disney content — from ABC, ESPN, and all of the company’s other subsidiaries — will now be available to Dish subscribers via live and video-on-demand services like WatchESPN, WATCH Disney, WATCH ABC Family and WATCH ABC.  This is an enormous agreement that shows Dish’s determination to someday catch front-running satellite provider DirecTV.

As an added bonus, the SEC Network — which DirecTV has yet to agree to carry — could help Dish flip some customers across the SEC footprint.  DirecTV’s calling card for sports fans is its pro sports packages — NHL Center Ice, MLB Extra Innings, NBA League Pass, and of course the NFL Sunday Ticket.  Dish will now have two major college/ESPN networks — the Longhorn Network and the SEC Network.  College versus pro?  In Dixie, Dish should get a boost from the SEC Network alone… unless DirecTV eventually cuts its own deal with SEC/ESPN or The Walt Disney Company.

As we told you last month, Dish Network currently has 14 million subscribers.  AT&T U-verse has about 10 million.  That’s 24 million subscribers who’ll be able to watch the SEC Network from launch and that’s a far better number than any previous conference network had at its launch.  Part of that is thanks to the Dish/Disney umbrella deal, yes, but give the SEC credit for wisely partnering with the media empire of ESPN — and by default Disney — in the first place.

For the sake of comparison, DirecTV has about 20 million subscribers.  The deal to combine Time Warner and Comcast would cover another 33 million subscribers.  Those companies are bigger than Dish and AT&T U-verse so it makes sense that they would be slower to sign an SEC Network deal than smaller companies trying to catch them.

Either way, SEC fans with DirecTV or Time Warner/Comcast will now have one more option if their own provider doesn’t pick up the SEC Network by late-summer.

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A Second Carrier Is Set To Come On Board As SEC/ESPN Charge Big For SEC Network

sec espn network logoSince 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.”

 

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One Of UK’s Biggest Donors In Hot Water Over Alleged Pyramid Scheme

PaulOrberson_Stage-300x211Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission and three state attorneys general announced that they were shutting down a national marketing company named Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing of Lexington.  The reason?  It’s allegedly a “global pyramid scheme.”  According to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, the shut down is “the beginning of the end for one of the most prolific pyramid schemes operating in North America.”

So why do we mention this national business story on MrSEC.com?  Because the president of Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing is Paul Orberson.  Perhaps you’ve heard of the Paul Orberson Football Office Complex which was built on the University of Kentucky campus a decade ago as part of the Nutter Field House.  The Danville, Kentucky native reportedly gave $100,000 to John Calipari’s “Hoops for Haiti” organization.

Now, the UK athletic department has plenty of boosters with plenty of coal money (maybe not so much as a few years ago) to help fund its sports programs.  But in this economy, any time a mega-booster goes down an athletic department is going to feel it.  And this comes just as Kentucky is launching a multi-million dollar project to upgrade Commonwealth Stadium and its football facilities.

Orberson’s company claimed that its 160,000 independent representatives were selling everything from vitamins and security systems to Dish Network subscriptions.  Dish Network officials told Montana state regulators that their company had no relationship with Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing at all.  Ironically, the co-founder and chairman of the board at Dish is Charlie Ergen, a prominent University of Tennessee booster.

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Dish Will Carry Arkansas-Vandy Game

Arkansas
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Arkansas fans with satellite service through Dish Network are in luck.

The satellite provider and 20th Century Fox reached a settlement Friday that will put more than 20 Fox affiliates back on the air. Among those include Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports South, which will televise Arkansas’ game with Vanderbilt Saturday night.

We told you earlier this week the satellite provider would not provide the game because of a contract negotiation with Fox.

The game will can also be viewed on ESPN’s GamePlan pay-per-view package and ESPN3.com outside of the nine states with SEC schools.

For more visit WholeHogSports.com. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.

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Arkansas-Vandy Game Not on Dish

Arkansas
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Arkansas’ game Saturday night with Vanderbilt will not be carried on Dish Network because of contract negotiations between the satellite giant and Fox. Because the negotiations are ongoing, more than 20 Fox affiliates have been pulled from the Dish lineup, according to a UA press release.

The game is scheduled to kick-off at 6 p.m. and will be televised by Fox Sports Southwest in Arkansas and Louisiana, and Fox Sports South elsewhere in the conference’s footprint. All other cable and satellite carriers will have the game, according to the UA.

As is custom with conference games, Saturday’s contest will be blacked out on the ESPN GamePlan pay-per-view package and ESPN3.com in the nine SEC states only.

As of Thursday morning there were still several tickets available for the game through the UA ticket office with hundreds more listed on ticket exchange websites. The No. 19 Razorbacks have sold out their last two games in Fayetteville.

For more visit WholeHogSports.com. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.

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Football game not available on Dish Network

This weekend's Arkansas-Vanderbilt football game will not be available to Dish Network subscribers.
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