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Pierce: Bad news for USU fans — SEC Network is struggling

Published July 8, 2014 3:12 pm

Sports on TV • It might not be easy to find Utah State-Tennessee game on TV on Aug. 31.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah State football team opens its 2014 schedule at Tennessee, and the game will be televised on the brand-new SEC Network.

It's entirely possible that most Utahns won't be able to see it. It's highly likely that most Aggie fans around the country won't, either.

Despite the fact that the SEC fancies itself the biggest, baddest, best thing in college sports, the SEC Network is struggling to get distribution.

Sound familiar? Like when the Mountain West Network — aka The Mtn. — struggled for six years to get onto cable and satellite systems without much success?

Like the Pac-12 Network, which has not gotten the distribution that was expected?

P12N and the SEC Network have two things in common. They both have deals with Dish; neither is on DirecTV

It's fascinating to see SEC fans take a statement issued by DirecTV that it is "optimistic" it will reach an agreement to carry the channel as, well, reason for optimism. That sounds like what we were hearing about the Pac-12 Network two years ago. And at this point it doesn't seem like that deal is ever going to get done.

P12N is still asking for more than DirecTV is willing to pay. And if the Pac-12's attempt at a boycott was going to work, it would have happened by now.

Ah, but we're being told it's different this time. That SEC fans are so rabid that DirecTV absolutely HAS to give in. After all, all the SEC Network wants is $1.30 per month per subscriber in the 11 states that comprise the league's footprint, and less than that in the other 39 states.

That reasoning ignores, however, that not everybody in those 11 states is an SEC fan. And that DirecTV subscribers would end up having the cost of the SEC Network tacked onto their bill whether they watch it or not.

That's true of every channel on DirecTV, Dish or whatever cable system is in your area. But do most subscribers in Utah want to pay more every month to watch Utah State play Tennessee?

Probably not.

The MWC vastly underestimated how difficult it would be to gain distribution.

The Pac-12 thought it was going to be a lot easier because it is populated by Big, Important Teams. And it is still not available in much of the country. Maybe half the country. Maybe somewhat more than half the country.

(We don't know how many subscribers P12N has or what the channel's ratings are because P12N doesn't release those numbers. I can, however, tell you that no channel in the history of television has kept numbers private when it had good news it could share.)

Now the SEC is saying that it may launch next month in as little as 20 percent of its target of 30 million homes — but nobody should worry because negotiations are ongoing. The truth is that this is not as easy as anybody in any conference seems to think. And, despite the fact that we live in a time when fans of seemingly every team seem to expect to see every one of their teams' games on TV, it doesn't always happen.

If you're an Aggie fan and you don't have Dish, you might want to start scouting around to find a friend who does. It might happen, but you can't count on DirecTV coming to an agreement with the SEC before Aug. 31.

And if you hold your breath waiting for Comcast to add the SEC Network here in Utah, you'll be Aggie blue long before USU travels to Knoxville.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com.