The SEC network will launch in August of this year, just in time for college football, but there are still major questions with what providers will carry the network. On Wednesday, DirecTV send out e-mails to customers (who had inquired about the network) telling them they "have no current plans to carry the SEC Network".
Once this went viral on social media and the company got some consumer feedback, they quickly changed their tune with this tweet...
DIRECTV is still in negotiations to bring SEC Network to customers. Check http://t.co/QDaZagBzUw for updates as season gets closer— DIRECTV (@DIRECTV) February 19, 2014
This may have been a negotiating tactic by the satellite provider, but if they thought SEC fans were going to be quiet about the possibility of not getting to see the SEC Network, they thought wrong and in the long-run this is good news for the SEC and the SEC Network.
Last year, the Pac-12 Network launched and DirecTV did not pick them up (they still haven't). The Pac-12 Network now has step by step instructions on their website on how to drop DirecTV and pick up a different provider that has the network. According to the link, in my area I could switch to AT&T U-verse or DISH network in order to get that network. I don't know what kind of impact that has had but if DirecTV still doesn't carry that network then I would think it's been little to none.
Of course, the SEC averaged 3.8 million viewers per game (on 120 games) during the 2013 season whereas the Pac-12 network averaged 1.7 million viewers per game (based on 76 games). Out of the top college football teams, the SEC had five of the top seven in terms of TV ratings and 8 of the top 15 whereas the Pac-12 had none. This isn't an article to bash the Pac-12, but it's just to show that the two conferences are fundamentally different in terms of viewership.
Based on the responses from social media, DirecTV now has a better understanding of Southern culture than they did before the day started. My bet is that they get a deal worked out before the season starts. If they don't, I'm pretty sure a lot of my neighbors will make the switch. Advantage, SEC Network.
Here are some counterpoints on why it may not.
1. 3.8M average? OK, now what's going to be the average of the games that actually get shown on the network? I know they're promised some more marquee games, but let's not kid ourselves. The 1-AA and Sun Belt OOC games are going to be the majority of the inventory (when it's not two bad SEC teams playing each other).
2. 3.8M average? AMC delivers 7 times that on a Walking/Talking Dead Sunday at $0.25 a sub. ESPN wants more than 5 times that in SEC country. You might be willing to pay, but what about those who aren't? Which leads to point #3
3. You think that you leaving isn't expected in making this decision? Churn is all part of the game. Think about the people who don't care about college football (and based on the numbers, there are a whole hell of a lot of them) who might switch from Dish to DirecTV because Dish is foisting this extra sub fee on their customers. Now think about how many people live outside of SEC country and might get pissed off about getting charged for a sport they don't care about in a region they don't live in. The potential of a large downside for DirecTV is there. But how much of an upside is there for them? Because....
4. This is filling a niche that doesn't really need to be filled. What was the count last year - 10 SEC games that didn't get televised? Now customers everywhere are being asked to subsidize those 10 god-awful games that couldn't get crammed anywhere?
5. The big, bad NFL and the Sunday Ticket. Long story short, so long as DirecTV has the ticket, college football will be secondary and optional in their business model.
Finally - social media is a echo chamber on things like this. Look no further than Sharknado for your proof. There was *much* more social engagement on that movie than there will ever be on whether DirecTV gets the SEC Network - unless you really think missing out on UT Chatanooga playing Alabama is going to drive 5,000+ tweets per minute. But in the real world, Sharknado had just 1.4M viewers during that twitter storm.
@GoalieLax Thanks for the reply and I appreciate the thought you put into this. This will definitely be an interesting off-season storyline as SEC fans tend to be very loud and if things don't go their way with this, they will make their voice heard. Like you said, the financial impact might not be that big but it could seem worse just based on how loud the locals yell.
As far as the games, I think the SEC Network will go out of it's way to make sure that it has some decent games on. I'm not talking Bama/Auburn, Georgia/Florida or Bama/A&M but they do have South Carolina/A&M scheduled for August 28th and even if there is Johnny Football that is still a match-up of Top 25 (if not Top 15) teams in week one..