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CBS War With Time Warner Shows The SEC Network Won’t Be A Lay-Up

sec-network-logo-2jpg-bbd247c008a80ca3Having spent two decades in the television industry and also having experienced one very nasty battle over retransmission agreements up close, I freely admit to being “the negative guy” when it comes to the SEC Network and its fight to get carriage on America’s biggest cable and satellite providers.  Whether broadcasting top-notch Southern football or the World Series of Baking, cable and satellite companies don’t like paying for start-up channels.  They’ve got plenty of networks already and each time a new one comes along — demanding big dollars to carry it — the providers balk, then fight, then yield… and then pass the cost on to you, the subscriber.

We’ve been consistently banging this drum for months.  We did so before the official announcement for the SEC Network was made: “Those carriage negotiations usually don’t go too smoothly; a cross between going across the aisle in Congress and trying to reason with Kim Jung Un.”

We did so after the wraps were taken off the channel: “You, the viewer, need to prepare for the carriage battles we’ve warned you about.”

Last month we pointed you in the direction of the last-minute fight going on between FOX’s new all-sports network, FS1, and DirecTV, Dish and Time Warner.  That new channel was projected to reach 90 million cable households.  As of last month three of the biggest cable and satellite providers in the country weren’t going to carry it.

Today, we’ve got yet another big battle for you to take note of.  CBS and Time Warner Cable are duking it out over their retransmission agreement.  CBS affiliates and CBS-owned cable networks have been yanked from Time Warner subscribers, meaning they can not be viewed in large parts of New York, Los Angeles and Dallas at the moment.  Media analysts believe the fight could go on from 10 days to six weeks.  And keep in mind that the NFL regular season is just a month from kickoff.  CBS — along with FOX — carries more games than any other broadcaster.

The New York Times provides a quickie explanation here:

 

“Time Warner Cable has also acted at a time when similar showdowns are increasingly common across the country.  The impasse in almost all the disputes centers on what are known as retransmission fees — compensation for putting broadcast stations on cable systems.  In this case CBS, according to several analysts following the situation, has asked for an increase from about $1 per subscriber to about $2.”

 

So the NFL season and all other CBS-generated content hangs in the balance in three major metropolitan areas over a proposed $1-per-subscriber hike in price.  While this one will eventually be worked out — they always are — anyone living under the illusion that the SEC will slide right onto every cable and satellite provider it desires is dreaming.

ESPN and the SEC have cut just one deal to date and that is with AT&T U-verse, a provider that’s been unceasingly touted as “the fastest-growing provider in the country.”  Sounds good, but what does that mean?  Well, AT&T U-verse has gone from 4.1 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2012 to 5.0 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2013.  Nationally.

Uh, yeah.

Trust us, the SEC Network’s fight to get carriage will be a frustrating slog.  Your cable or satellite provider will not want to give millions of dollars to ESPN and the SEC for the right to air their programming.  They will tell you that ESPN and the SEC are asking for too much money and that they are on your side, protecting your hard-earned dollars.

ESPN and the SEC, meanwhile, will tell you that your cable or satellite provider is a big ol’ meanie.  You’ll be told that they won’t give you the SEC football games that you love.  You’ll be told to call your local provider and demand the SEC Network.  Eventually, overall viewer demand will indeed land the new channel on your system.

But prepare yourself now to miss a week or two of 2014 SEC football action as the battle comes to a head.  And when the battle is done, you’ll be rewarded with — most likely — a $1 or $2 bump on your monthly television bill.

 

UPDATE – After three days with no CBS programming in New York, LA, and Dallas, Time Warner Cable has extended an olive branch to CBS.  As we said, these things always work themselves out.  But as was the case here, it usually gets worked out after the deadline.

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How ESPN Sets The SEC Network Apart (Even From The Net’s Texas Project)

sec launch pad copyThere has never been a league- or school-specific network like the soon-to-be-announced SEC Network.  In terms of immediate appeal, it will be unmatched.

The Big Ten Network doesn’t have what the SEC Network will have.  The Pac-12′s networks don’t have it, either.  Not Texas and it’s ESPN-owned Longhorn Network.  Heck, not even the NFL Network.

Right now, you’re probably thinking I’m talking about super-duper, A1, top-o’-the-line college football.  But that’s not it.

Perhaps you think the SEC’s new channel will be a big success because of the passion of its fans.  That might help, but that’s not what will set the network apart.

ESPN is what will set the network apart.  More specifically, the SEC’s all-around partnership with ESPN will set the network apart.

As you know, the key to making money with a cable channel is tied more to subscribers than it is the highly volatile world of television ad sales.  Ad sales are seasonal.  Ad sales are impacted by ebbs and flows in the economy.  Subscription prices are steady.

To make the most money in the current environment — before all programming becomes a la carte via internet connections — a network must get carriage on as many cable and satellite systems as possible.  Working out deals with those providers has been the biggest pain in the neck to date for anyone and everyone who’s tried to launch a brand new channel.

In simple terms, the owner of the new network sits down with Comcast, Time-Warner, DirecTV and others to hammer out monthly fees that those providers must pay the owner for the right to carry its network.  Many times the providers don’t even want the network.  So when the owner overprices the channel — and that’s always part of the game — the providers quickly balk at overpaying for something they don’t want in the first place.

That’s where you enter the picture.

The owner of a network will begin to put programming it believes you want on its channel.  The more quality programming it can put on its channel, the more you’ll want it.  Theoretically, the more you want it, the more you’ll call your own cable or satellite provider to demand it.

Even better from an owner’s perspective is when, for instance, one satellite-provider agrees to carry the new network while a competing provider refuses.  If you, the viewer, decide to switch providers in order to get the network you want, oh, that’s a big help.  Let a provider start to lose subscribers to the competition and changes can come quickly.

Boil all this down and the plan is simple: Good programming goes on network… viewers want that programming… viewers demand their cable and satellite providers carry the programming… providers pay for the network and the programming in order to retain their clients.

At that point the providers pass the price along to you, of course, by way of monthly subscriber fees.  Maybe the new channel becomes part of your provider’s “sports pack” or maybe it’s a stand-alone entity.  Either way, your monthly bill will go up a little bit because of that new network.

So the absolute must in all of this?  Put good programming — games in a sports network’s case — on the new channel.

This is where the SEC’s monster deal with ESPN comes into play.

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Football Fans Lose A Legend With The Passing Of Summerall

pat-summerallHe was a University of Arkansas defensive end, tight end and kicker between 1949 and 1951.  He played professionally for the Detroit Lions, Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants.  He was a participant in the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Giants and Baltimore Colts, “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

He also became one of the most popular sports broadcasters in the history of television.

Pat Summerall passed away yesterday in Dallas at the age of 82.

For many of us, the sound of Summerall’s voice creates a flood of memories and nostalgia.  It can only be said of a few, but when you speak of the former great and his National Football League coverage, you can honestly say that the broadcaster became a vital part of his sport.  Summerall was the NFL.

Partnered with Tom Brookshire and then John Madden, Summerall was the A-list play-by-play man for CBS and then FOX during a career that spanned 40 seasons from 1962 through 2002.  He called 16 Super Bowls on television — more than any other broadcaster in history — and worked another 10 on radio.

In addition to his football broadcasts, Summerall worked The Masters and US Open tennis tournament for CBS and the Cotton Bowl for FOX.

At Arkansas, he was honored as a hero.  A member of the Razorbacks’ All-Century Team, he kicked the game-winning field goal in the Hogs’ 1951 win over Texas.  He stood out for Arkansas once more at last December’s SEC Championship game.  “I am so honored to represent the University of Arkansas as a recipient of the SEC Legend Award,” he said.

Summerall also once voiced an intro video that was shown before Razorback football games:

 

Arkansas Pregame Video

 

In a statement, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said:

 

“We are all deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Pat Summerall.  As one of the most recognizable graduates of the University of Arkansas, Pat was an ambassador for the Razorback program, our university and the entire state throughout his distinguished career.

After an extraordinary collegiate and professional football career, he went on to become one of the country’s legendary sports broadcasters for more than four decades lending his signature voice to some of the most memorable moments in sports history.  He was a proud Razorback and he will be greatly missed by his Razorback Family.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Cheri and the entire Summerall Family.”

 

No one — no one — was ever better than Pat Summerall.  He will be greatly missed.

 

NFL on CBS 1984 NFC Wildcard Intro

 

1992 NFC Championship Intro

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Reuben Foster Chooses Alabama

Linebacker Reuben Foster from Auburn (Ala.) High School has committed to sign with Alabama on Wednesday.

Foster, who also considered Auburn and Georgia, made his announcement on FOX Sports South. Foster said he decided on his way to the FOX studio.

“I’ve been loving Alabama since I was a pup,” Foster said. “I was raised as an Alabama fan from my mom and my dad.”

Foster originally committed to Alabama before he switched his commitment to Auburn. Foster then reopened his recruitment in December following the firing of head coach Gene Chizik and his staff, including former wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor.

Foster, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker by Rivals.com, is Alabama’s 23rd commitment for the class of 2013.

Of course, Foster’s announcement is only a commitment. He will surely hear from the other coaching staffs between now and Wednesday when he signs his national letter of intent.

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Report: Ex-LSU Star Mathieu Skipping Football For Rehab

According to WVUE-TV in New Orleans, in addition to “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” and “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West,” we now have “The Honey Badger Goes To Rehab.”

In a surprise move, ex-LSU star Tyrann Mathieu will not transfer to an FCS school, play football this fall, and then jump to the NFL next spring.  Instead he will be at the Right Step recovery center in Houston with ex-NBA player/coach John Lucas.  Obviously, that means that Mathieu will not be attending class at LSU this fall, either.

So after everyone — including yours truly — laid out Mathieu’s options as #1, #2 or #3… he chose #4.  And good for him.  Here’s hoping he can kick what most believe to be a marijuana habit.

The station spoke with Mathieu’s father who said the family decided as a whole for their son to remain in rehab for the fall:

 

“The Honey Badger’s father, Tyrone Mathieu, tells FOX 8 Sports that he and Tyrann agree — until he conquers his demons, he won’t be successful at his future endeavors, wherever they unfold.  The senior Mathieu says both Tyrann and his family are committed to restoring Tyrann’s health, no matter what it takes, believing football will take care of itself down the road.”

 

We’ve been running this site for about five years now and I can’t stress enough how refreshing it is to write about a young man making a smart decision after getting intelligent advice from his loved ones.  In most cases, either money or athletics comes first.  On this occasion, Mathieu’s health and future were put front and center.

Good luck to him.

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Arkansas AD Upset With CBS Over Petrino Cursing Episode

Talk about shooting the messenger…

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long says that he’s “disappointed” with SEC broadcast partner CBS for showing a replay of football coach Bobby Petrino hurling some seriously foul language at LSU’s Les Miles two Saturday’s ago.

“Professionally, I’m disappointed at the way that CBS portrayed Coach Petrino on the sideline.  I think it’s one thing if it’s (broadcast) live and they catch a coach using language, that’s one thing.  But I’m disappointed they chose to record it and shot it later… and further that they showed it in slow-motion so words could be made sure they could pick it up…

Certainly none of us like the use of profane language.  Certainly it happens in the heat of the battle and it’s unfortunate.  But I think in this case, I’m disappointed in the way it was (handled) by CBS…

I can tell you no coach wants to be seen on national television using profane language.  But does it happen?  Absolutely.  And, like you say, the heat of the moment to get a point across.  It’s not something that people should be shocked by, but, again, we don’t like the use of the language like that, certainly, where it can be shown, and, being honest with you, taken out of context.”

Long has expressed his concerns to the SEC office but has heard nothing back.  He also said he’s spoken with Petrino about the incident.

Where to start?

How about with Long deciding to bring this back up and put a spotlight on the issue once more.  Not smart.  The story was dead, now Long has unearthed it.  And he made a whole lot of excuses in the process.

Long blamed CBS for showing the clip as though they’re supposed to go out of their way to make every SEC coach look good.  CBS and the SEC have a good relationship, but you can be sure there’s nothing in the contract between the two that forces CBS to puff up the conference or its teams or its coaches.  There’s no “Thou must cover our butts whenever possible” clause.

Long also suggested that foul language is used often and that it shouldn’t be shown via replay or in slow motion.  Well, it is.  Often.  And sometimes in slow motion.  Not to mention the fact that when a coach points his finger at another coach and tosses F-bombs, well, there’s not a broadcaster in the country that wouldn’t show that.  Cursing may happen on sidelines, but firing a “F*** you, M***** F******” at a rival coach is pretty dadgum unusual.

Finally, Long suggested that the video was taken out of context.  How?  Was Petrino pointing at a water boy?  An official?  An opposing fan?  Would that make his words any more acceptable?

Now personally, I wasn’t offended by Petrino’s language in the least.  They’re only words.

That said, I was surprised to see him aim them at a rival coach.  First time in 40 years I’ve ever seen an SEC coach utter those words to another SEC coach in full view of television cameras.

If Long’s going to be upset about something — and it seems he’s more bothered by the language than anyone here at MrSEC.com is — then he should talk to, ya know, the guy who actually hurled the bad words while standing on the sideline in, ya know, full view of every camera in the stadium.

CBS was trying to make a blowout interesting.  Petrino’s the guy that gave them the opportunity to do it.  And ESPN, ABC, FOX and any other sports broadcaster would have handled that piece of tape in exactly the same way.

Bottom line?  Long should have passed on any questions about the cursing episode at this point.  It was old news until he started making excuses for his coach.

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Texas A&M Looks To Increase National Exposure Via SEC Move

There’s a common misconception — one that we’ve tried to dispel for two years now — that conference expansion and realignment is based 100% on football.  While TV contracts certainly provide the biggest reason for schools and leagues to merge, everything from academics to visibility is also considered by decision-makers.

ESPN.com’s Kristi Dosh spoke with Texas A&M’s Jason Cook — the school’s VP of marketing and communications — about the rationale behind the Aggies’ move to the SEC.  His take?


“The top decision factor for A&M going to the SEC was about increasing national visibility and exposure… While some look at the Big 12′s (FOX television) contract and see it as good from a financial standpoint, from an exposure standpoint, it doesn’t get coast-to-coast coverage.”


Cook pointed out that ESPN/ABC chose to air A&M’s recent game with Iowa State across only a portion of Big 12 footprint.  By comparison, the vast majority of SEC games air on CBS or one one of ESPN’s national networks.

He also noted that nine of the Top 25 selling sports brands in the country are currently in the SEC.

Dosh also spoke with Missouri officials who are focused on the academic side of the school’s new SEC partnership.  Mizzou intends to extend “their out-of-state reach, particularly in Florida, where they ahve a large number of alumni.”

Does football matter?  You bet.  Is it the only thing that matters?  Absolutely not.

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