Let the games begin. In the fight between cable and satellite operators and the SEC Network, we appear to have the first content provider that says it will not carry the conference's channel.
DirecTV is emailing SEC fans who have requested @SECNetwork that they "have no current plans to carry the SEC Network." Be forewarned.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID) February 19, 2014
Twitter, as you might expect, basically exploded. Providers like DIRECTV are not the most popular companies to begin with, and this is not going to make them any more popular. If Dish Network has indeed agreed to carry the network, some subscribers are likely to jump to Dish if DIRECTV and the cable operators don't change course -- which could reshape the market in the Southeast and give the SEC an upper hand in the negotiations. In short, it's probably better for the providers to hammer out a deal sooner rather than later.
Which might be why DIRECTV is doing this now. At the moment, the SEC and ESPN have all the leverage in these negotiations -- exclusive content and hundreds of thousands (on the conservative side) and probably millions of fans that are willing to pay for it. The only way for cable and satellite operators to get leverage is to make the conference and ESPN think they're actually willing to not carry the network.
At the same time, at least one of DIRECTV's social media accounts is already trying to tamp down some of the outrage already pouring out of the Southeast. Note the careful wording here.
@RyanBrownWJOX I'm not aware of this email being sent out. We're always open to expanding our sports programming choices for our customers.— DIRECTV Service (@DIRECTVService) February 19, 2014
The words "good cop, bad cop" come to mind.
The main upshot here is that you probably shouldn't worry about whether your provider doesn't have the SEC Network until May or June. Much of what both sides say until then is posturing for negotiations that are either ongoing or can be turned back on fairly quickly. But it also doesn't hurt to lobby. To do that, go here.