Verizon FiOS's Gambit on the SEC Network

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Update, 8/21: Verizon will carry the SEC Network. -Ed.

As of now, Verizon FiOS is the only nation-wide cable carrier that has not signed on to the SEC Network (network site link). Along with Verizon, regional provider Cablevision is also a holdout to the popular new channels. It's important to note this, as they are large regional provider in the Northeast. Why? Because it illustrates the attitude problem that is partly behind Verizon's dragging of feet. That is, Verizon doesn't see SEC football as all that important. Yes, Verizon has a presence in Texas and Florida, but take a look at this FiOS coverage map. Notice a ... gap of coverage?

Right now, Verizon's attitude appears to be, why bother catering to a market we barely have coverage in? Verizon carries the Big Ten Network and the Longhorn Network; the reasons for these pick-ups are largely obvious when looking at the coverage areas. In the same way, one can understand that at face value, Verizon has no motivation to carry the SEC Network when its coverage area is largely outside the SEC footprint.

This is undoubtedly very upsetting to Aggies and Gators who are in the FiOS coverage areas, only to be treated like second-class citizens. Verizon appears to be hoping that the customers that they anger will either not leave or that the money they lose from those customers leaving would be less than the customers they'd lose over a measly ~$1.30 rate hike (which is roughly what SEC Network wants). They're also gambling that the SEC fans in, say, the Northeast and California won't care enough to switch from their service. In short, they are underestimating SEC fans, and underestimating how numerous we are.

Their Facebook page, Twitter, and even their own forums are filled with customers demanding SEC Network. Do a little searching and you hear a lot of the same stories from customers who have called in. While you get the occasional story of reps who have never heard of the SEC Network, the Verizon line is always repeated: "We are in negotiations." Verizon has a policy of not giving any updates on programming negotiations until they are done. Go ahead and ask them about the Pac-12 network, which has been around for two years. You'll get the same line.

As silly as it is to compare the SEC fans with Pac-12 fans, Verizon won't carry the Pac-12 network. It's been two years, and Verizon is ... still "in negotiations." Look at the coverage map again. FiOS has a strong presence in Southern California. It would make sense for them to carry the Pac-12 network. They don't. So we again see the facts: The Northeast market rules FiOS programming.

On a personal level, it feels insulting. It feels like Verizon has a very arrogant attitude about the SEC fans, and doesn't care how many SEC fans they lose. While they claim it's a company policy to remain silent, that only serves to exacerbate things. Verizon's silence regarding these negotiations sends a message that they don't think of SEC fans as important. A company that did care would give updates as to how negotiations are progressing. Many other providers did; Verizon has not. Again, they are gambling that the SEC fans in their market either don't care enough, aren't numerous enough to switch, or are under the oppressive thumb of outrageous early termination fees (most likely).

Now, that said, I think Verizon is going to back down. I think it's planned. There are Internet forum posts from people who claim to have called corporate and been given an attitude that it doesn't matter until the first game (I know, Internet forums are TOTALLY reliable!). I believe those stories; during my phone calls, I've been basically told me that it was likely that if a deal is reached, it wouldn't be until "near kickoff." So there is hope, but let's be honest here: Do you want a carrier that basically is only getting the channel because it's been forced to? A channel that's trying to save a few bucks by delaying carrying SEC Network for two weeks? A network that's making us miss PAWWWWL?

The optimist in me wants to believe that they're testing the market. They're trying to see how many customers really want SEC Network. People are already leaving, and I'm sure they're paying statisticians lots of money to figure out how many customers they'll lose if they don't have SEC Network this season. Overall though, they still don't care. They are treating SEC fans like we don't matter. Looking at the regional maps, I can understand that they think that they don't have to cater to us.

Verizon is underestimating the SEC fans' passion. At best, they're dragging their heels only to get the network at the last possible moment. At the worst, they're lying about being in negotiations, hoping that by the time football season rolls around, we'll be too distracted to switch. As someone who cannot miss the first games, time is up. What angers me the most though is the silence. Even if Verizon were to come out and say they'll have it in time for the first games, I'd be happy. Verizon wants us to wait until the end, but that is not an option -- you need to make your change now if you want to be guaranteed SEC Network in your home in a week. As an official privy to the thoughts of the SEC leadership has said, "If I had VerizonFIOS, I would be considering other options."

***UPDATE 21:39 8/20/2014***

I was informed that Medicom had in fact reached an agreement to carry SECN, and has had the network since launch. The article originally listed them with Cablevision as a regional holdout for SEC Network. This means Verizon FiOS and Cablevision are the only major hold outs left. The introduction has been edited to reflect this change.

***UPDATE 10:41 8/21/2014***

As I predicted, FiOS has made an 11th hour deal. Announcement expected next week. Let's hope that for those of us outside the SEC Footprint it's not on some ridiculous premium package (it will be).

A FanPost gives the opinion of the fan who writes it and that fan only. That doesn't give the opinion more or less weight than any other opinion on this blog, but the post does not necessarily reflect the view of TSK's writers.

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