3 months from SEC launch, sports bars' cable deals uncertain

(WBIR-Knoxville) In less than 100 days, the highly-publicized SEC Network will make its debut on TV screens across the country.

The channel, powered by ESPN, will feature every team in the conference, including several games from the University of Tennessee.

"It's a no-brainer, I know I'm going to get it. I just don't know which network is it going to be on, who's going to jump on it first, who's going to be allowed to see it," Billy DuPree, the general manager of Bailey's Sports Bar and Grille said Wednesday.

However, what Knoxville is dealing with is few providers that will broadcast the channel. Currently, the only options for customers is to subscribe to AT&T Uverse or Dish Network. Uverse is available in limited areas, and Dish would involve the use of satellites.

Currently, other Knoxville providers Comcast and Charter Communications have not announced deals at this time.

"Figure in this part of the country, it'll work itself out pretty quick because this is SEC country," DuPree added. "But if not, we'll get the fans what they want. Call up AT&T will be here tomorrow."

Other bars have even more limited options.

In downtown Maryville, Two Doors Down Bar sits where they can only use satellite television because of the area's infrastructure. They have Direct TV, which currently does not have the channel.

"Satellites are the only thing available," said bartender Philip Sharp. "We don't have any offers from any cable companies. It's either Direct or Dish, and we have Direct right now."

If that bar wants to change providers, it has a month or two left because it would involve new equipment and set up.

"They don't pick the game up, we're not going to call Direct and cancel, and call Dish and go 'by the way, can you send someone out here?'" Sharp added.

SEC Network said there are even more options for customers, if no more deals with cable providers are reached by the Vols' season opener on August 31.

"We currently have two top-10 national providers signed for distribution at launch – AT&T U-verse and DISH – as well as Google Fiber and a national rural telecom coop, NRTC," ESPN senior vice president of college networks Justin Connelly said in a statement to 10News. "We continue to be in discussion with all other distributors and are hopeful they see the value of the SEC Network and will join the growing list of distributors that will be on board for the network's August 14 debut."

10News reached out to Comcast for comment.


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