The SEC Network's Most Important Person

Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

It's you.

As of today, only AT&T U-verse has agreed to carry the SEC Network. While yesterday's press conference made a huge deal out of the fact that it's the nation's fastest-growing TV provider, U-verse can only claim that title because it's also one of the smaller ones. There is a long way to go before the network has an acceptable number of TV providers on board. Without wide distribution, the value of the SECN for everyone goes way down.

The most important person in the SEC Network's quest for distribution is you. Yes, you. Go to the SEC Network's request page and put in a plug for it with your television provider.

I am not saying this to be a shill or cheerleader for the conference. I'm saying it because I want to make sure I get the SEC Network at launch in August of 2014. This is pure self interest at work here. I actually don't know what my TV provider will be by then; my wife is a Navy musician, and Uncle Sam will be moving us somewhere this summer (we still don't know yet). It could be any one of a number of cable or satellite companies across the country. The best way I can try to make sure I get the SECN is by getting all of you to hassle your TV providers about it. It's also the best way for you to do the same. So do it.

"But David," you say. "This sounds like one of those things where you sign a petition to save the unicorn habitat or whatever and nothing ever happens. Will me filling out an online form actually make a difference?" I will answer your question with a question: do you remember the Big Ten Network's struggles to get full distribution?

Let's take a walk down memory lane, courtesy of Wikipedia. When the BTN launched on August 30, 2007 (wow, that's a long time ago), DirecTV and U-verse were the only providers carrying it. Dish came on board the following week, and some small time providers had it too. That was it for almost the whole first year. But then, Comcast caved in June of 2008. After that, the dominoes started falling. Mediacom signed up on August 23. Time Warner Cable gave in on August 25. Charter came on board on August 26, and Cox did the same two days later. BrightHouse agreed to terms around that same time as well.

So what happened? The NYT's Joe Nocera explained in late August of 2008 as this was all happening:

Why did the cable guys fold? Pretty simple. Big Ten fans were adamant about wanting the network, and the cable companies, fighting competition from the Internet and satellite companies — aren’t in much of a position to tick off 25 to 30 percent of their subscriber base. So they swallowed hard and cut a deal.

Big Ten fans were adamant about wanting the network. Competition then forced the holdouts to give up and carry the channel. That's how this is done.

You need to be adamant about wanting the SEC Network. You need to let your TV provider know that you want the network. If things are getting down to the wire next year with your provider, you will need to call them up and let them know you will switch if they don't sign on. You should know by now that your cable company is not your friend (especially if it's Time Warner). It won't pick up the SECN because it likes you and wants you to be happy. It will only do so when it's convinced that not carrying it is a bigger threat to its subscriber count than adding an extra dollar to everyone's bill is. The conference and ESPN literally are counting on you to make the difference:

Marquee games will be on the SEC Network in order to generate leverage for cable and satellite distribution, ESPN officials said.

That strategy hasn't worked for the Longhorn Network either because there simply aren't enough Texas fans out there to twist the TV guys' arms or they haven't screamed loudly enough. According to commissioner Larry Scott, the Pac-12 can't get DirecTV to carry the Pac-12 Networks because DTV doesn't think fans care enough. That's not from some unnamed source. That's the commissioner of the Pac-12 saying that. Fan pressure isn't high enough, so DirecTV won't carry it.

Yes, this does matter. Yes, your voice does make a difference. I really want to get the SEC Network at launch. I'm sure you do too. I've put in my request. Won't you put in yours?

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