(WBIR - Knoxville) We're still six months away from the return of "football time in Tennessee." Yet, one of the biggest games for the SEC this upcoming season may be played in the off-season.
ESPN and the Southeastern Conference launch the new SEC Network in August 2014. But ESPN wants cable and satellite companies to shell out big bucks to carry the rookie network.
Thus far, there are not many signed letters of intent from cable and satellite companies. The only major provider in Knoxville and most of the Southeast to sign on with the SEC Network is AT&T's U-Verse. This is still no deal with Comcast, Time Warner, or DirecTV. There also is no deal with DISH as of yet, although various reports in the last month have indicated they are close to an agreement.
ESPN is banking on the SEC's rabid fans to apply pressure on cable and satellite providers. The network launched the getsecnetwork.com website that includes links for visitors to "Demand the SEC Network now." Providers have been bombarded with emails and messages on Twitter, which has transformed the DirecTV Service twitter account into one big repetitive reply to demanding fans. The responses from DirecTV generally consist of "thank you for letting us know that the SEC Network is important to you" and "we are still in negotiations with SEC Network, so stay tuned."
ESPN strategically scheduled its first game to put pressure on cable and satellite companies. The network launches in August with a big Thursday night battle between South Carolina and Texas A&M. Gamecocks and Aggies are mostly served by Time Warner Cable, which also is not carrying the SEC Network as of yet. Time Warner is also in the middle of an attempted merger with Comcast.
Most SEC Network games probably will not be marquee match-ups like the season-opener at South Carolina. The network says it will carry around three games every Saturday during fall football season. So ratings winner or not, there's still a chance from week-to-week a few SEC fan bases may be unable to watch their favorite teams via their local cable or satellite provider.
Negotiations such as these have notoriously gone down to the wire, meaning the current stand off could be decided with no time left on the clock this August. In the meantime, expect plenty of corporate posturing and solicitations for demands from SEC fans.