Then, there were two.
In a deal with ESPN that will push the SEC Network toward a record number of subscribers at launch, DirecTV became the latest distributor to sign on for carriage of the fledgling service. The nation’s DBS leader will carry SEC Network when it kicks off on Aug. 14, in time for Texas A&M-South Carolina two weeks later, the first of 45 football games from the nation’s preeminent collegiate pigskin circuit.
Following the comprehensive distribution deal The Walt Disney Co. struck with Suddenlink earlier on Aug. 4, the DirecTV affiliate accord leaves just Charter and Verizon FiOS as the major carriers at this juncture without carriage contracts for the SEC Network within the Southeastern Conference ‘s 11-state footprint.
Tacking on the DirecTV and Suddenlink commitments to the deals with Comcast, Dish, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Bright House Network and the National Television Cable Cooperative, among others, ESPN is moving the SEC Network, which it owns along with the Southeastern Conference, to a position where it could surpass the record 90 million homes Fox Sports 1 launched in when it converted from Speed Network on Aug. 17, 2013.
Charter Communications last week said it is finalizing a distribution deal with ESPN and it “will have the SEC Network for its August 14 launch.” The MSO operates systems in the SEC footprint states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Verizon, which serves Texas and Florida, is in negotiations with ESPN, and is expected to carry SEC Network.
ESPN and DirecTV didn’t disclose financial terms of the SEC deal. The worldwide leader has been seeking monthly subscriber fees of a $1.40 within the conference’s 11-state footprint and a quarter per customer outside of those boundaries.
“The SEC boasts powerhouse athletic programs, especially in football, representing deeply loyal communities, many of which do not have any professional teams,” said Dan York, DirecTV's chief content officer. “The depth of SEC competition and the quality ESPN brings to game production and complementary programming makes SEC Network a valuable addition to our sports programming lineup, and we’re excited to bring it into our customers’ homes and on their devices.”
"Our agreement with DirecTV continues to push the SEC Network towards one of the most successful network launches when it debuts on August 14,” said Sean Breen, Disney and ESPN Media Networks senior vice president of affiliate sales. “We’re proud to deliver the SEC Network nationwide via DirecTV in advance of the Texas A&M and South Carolina game later this month.”
During its freshman year, SEC Network will televise 450 events and present another 550 or more exclusively on SECNetwork.com or the Watch ESPN platform.