The new ESPN-owned SEC Network is set to launch on August 14 and will feature 45 SEC games and a variety of SEC-focused programming. Local providers Mediacom and Direct TV have not yet reached a deal to carry the fledgling network. (Special image)
ALBANY — As the 2014 college football season fast approaches, so does the launch of the new SEC Network and fans around Southwest Georgia are wondering how the fledgling network’s arrival will impact their Saturday rituals this fall.
Long a tradition in Southwest Georgia where SEC football reigns supreme, gathering with friends and family or relaxing on the couch to enjoy a pigskin battle, is the highlight of most fall weekends in and around the area.
With the SEC Network scheduled go live date of August 14 right around the corner many are wondering whether they will still have television access to top-tier match-ups throughout the season.
Currently, the only Albany-area media provider that has reached an agreement to carry the new network is Dish Network, meaning those customers who get their television service from DirectTV and Mediacom will not have access to the network’s content unless a deal can be reached.
As the Albany area’s largest cable provider, many Mediacom subscribers are waiting for the media giant to reach some kind of agreement that will either add the new network to its current packages or offer the network as a pay channel.
According to an email from Mediacom Communications Director Phyllis Peters, the company is currently in negotiations with the SEC Network and it’s parent company ESPN to strike a carriage deal before the football season kicks off later this summer.
Peters said that because the SEC Network and ESPN are connected, Mediacom’s negotiations for the new network are tied to the company’s negotiations around other ESPN networks.
“While the interest is particularly elevated for the SEC Network, we at Mediacom are in the process of finalizing a new agreement granting us the rights to carry SEC and other ESPN channels,” said Peters. “We’re working to make this new agreement as beneficial as possible for our customers, while trying to balance the really huge challenge of continually-rising programming costs.”
There are efforts on social media under way to get Mediacom to speed up its process and provide the SEC Network.
While the SEC Network will reportedly boast SEC-related content such as SEC Nation, the Paul Finebaum Show, SEC Storied and others, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s the network’s plan to carry 45 actual games this year that has fans, especially those without access, concerned.
As things stand now, the network will work with the “World Wide Leader in Sports” to determine which games will be shown on the traditional channels, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, and which games will air on the new network.
While there is no word yet on how that will shake out it’s safe to bet that some of the conference’s top tier games will be shown on the SEC Network to help fuel the new network’s growth.
One thing that won’t change for viewers, however, is the SEC’s current deal with CBSSports to allow that network first choice each Saturday for it’s game of the week.
In essence, once CBS has chosen its featured SEC game, ESPN/SEC Network will then determine where the other games will be broadcast.
Viewers with access the new network’s arrival should help to broaden the number of SEC game viewing options. With a game on CBS, games on the traditional ESPN channels and games on the SEC Network, fans should be able to choose from a long list of games.
Which local fans end getting that level of choice will depend on how negotiations between the SEC Network and the large content distributors like Mediacom progress over over the next few weeks.
“We are actively negotiating with the SEC Network in order to make this channel available to Mediacom customers before the college football season kicks off later this summer,” Peters said. “It is always our intention to bring new channels such as the SEC Network to our lineup, while also trying to minimize the increased cost this additional programming will have on customers.”