The final truly large piece of the SEC Network puzzle has fallen into place, with DirecTV agreeing to carry the SEC Network starting with the conference channel's Aug. 14 launch. That means that the five largest providers of live video, and six of the top eight, will carry the network on its first day.
In other words, Mike Slive and Co. have avoided the major bumps that accompanied the launches of the Big Ten Network and the Pac-12 Networks, both of whom struggled to secure deals with the highest-profile providers. As a result, the SEC's channel will have impressive reach when the middle of the month comes around.
With opening day now firmly in sight, we are happy to count DIRECTV, the country’s largest satellite provider, among our many distributors for the SEC Network. The SEC is home to the most passionate fans in college sports and I am pleased to have such a wide distribution by launch date for the benefit of SEC fans everywhere
There are, of course, still a few smaller providers left to get signed up. Charter Communications, which would add a subscriber base of more than 4 million, is said to be close. Things have been quieter around Verizon FiOS, which has more than 5 million customers, though that doesn't necessarily mean that there aren't some negotiations going on behind the scenes. And with every major provider that adds the network, the pressure on those smaller players is going to grow.
Still, and not to make light of the predicament that faces the customers of those services, even if the SEC were to stop now, it would be an impressive job by the conference offices and ESPN, who as of a few weeks ago counted Dish Network as its only big carriage deal. It's clear that customer pressure had something to do with this, given that DirecTV still refuses to carry the Pac-12 Networks. (Though the reasons for that are more complicated than the relative popularity of the two conferences.)
There are still 10 nervous days to go until the network launches for hundreds of thousands if not million of SEC fans. But thanks to the efforts of the conference, ESPN and likely the customers who have rallied behind the network, that number is a lot smaller than it could have been.