Blog by: George Thomas and Ron Ledgard
The SEC Network, a joint venture with ESPN, is seven years late to the party. They could, however, be the life of it.
When the channel, which will cover all things related to SEC sports debuts at 5 p.m. today, it will be seven years after the Big Ten Network made its splash.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and his partners at Fox were laughed at when they announced they were going to put second tier games from Big Ten teams on a cable network. Critics called it “risky” and said it wouldn’t fly.
Some video providers (Time Warner and Comcast for instance) held out for a while before adding it. And the trickle to add it by smaller systems only came when Appalachian State upset the Michigan Wolverines during the opening week of the college football season.
The SEC won’t have to worry about that problem. They’ve completed deals with all major video providers and will have an 11-state footprint with access to an estimated 52 million subscribers, contrast that to BTN’s 17-18 million at launch back then.
The SEC and ESPN should be sending their competition flowers and chocolates for having to vision to launch BTN. Today BTN looks visionary simply because of the nature of how television and technology have evolved since.
No one could see the explosion of the DVR or that the technology behind video-on-demand would improve as rapidly as it did.
What’s that got to do with sports, live sports in particular? Think timeshifting. If you wanted to have the DVR and its features such as “record series” so programming can easily be set with the online guide and the press of two buttons, you could. Easy peasy. If you want to catch up on a show the next day after airing, there exist any number of options – Hulu, assorted apps and your cable provider itself.
That makes watching scripted TV shows on your schedule a lot easier, freeing people up to do whatever, including watching that big game.
That is what sports networks – including college-based ones – are counting on. Those live eyes are tangible, reliable and worth more with respect to ad revenue.
The SEC benefits from that fact. What will be interesting: how ratings shake out once the football season ends? The SEC delivered unparalleled performances in BCS National Championship games; will the same happen on screen in the ratings game?
All major carriers in our area will carry the channel. Positions are as follows:
AT&T U-Verse: 607/1607
DISH Network: 404
Time Warner Cable: 336