Story and photos by Philip Joens
A fire truck carrying Missouri cheerleaders, Truman the Tiger and a videographer rolls down Rollins Street in front of Tiger Plaza on March 4, 2014, to take part in the filming of a commercial for the upstart SEC Network. The network is scheduled to launch in August.
Editor’s note: On Aug. 14, 2014 Mediacom announced that it will be carrying the SEC Network. The SEC Network is planned to air on channel 51 and 734 (HD).
Editor’s note: On Aug. 4, 2014 DirecTV announced that it will be carrying the SEC Network. The SEC Network is planned to air on channel 611.
Cameras rolled as Truman the Tiger frolicked in a gold fire truck, driving past MU’s Tiger Plaza where students gathered, chanting “Miz-Zou” on March 4.
ESPN was in Columbia to film a commercial for the new SEC Network as part of an ad campaign that is scheduled to start running later this month. The campaign will spotlight one unique thing about each of the
Students and fans gathered at Tiger Plaza on March 4, 2014, to take part in the shooting of a commercial for the SEC Network. The network is scheduled to launch in August.
14 schools in the Southeastern Conference. Kevin Lawrence, the director of the commercial, said in Missouri’s case, it was its iconic chants.
For ESPN, the day was important in another way, too. Earlier that day Dish Network became the first national television provider to agree to carry the network. Other providers are still in negotiations with ESPN including CenturyLink, DirecTV, Mediacom and Charter Communications.
Justin Connolly, ESPN’s senior vice president of programing for college networks, knows the process of TV negations well from his time on the distribution side at ESPN and ABC. Though only Dish Network and AT&T U-Verse have agreed to carry the SEC Network, Connolly isn’t worried yet. He said deals typically get done at the last minute.
“I’m not sure other networks have had that much success this early in the process,” Connolly said. “More gets done in run-up to launch and sometimes things don’t get done until after launch.”
Thomas Larsen, group vice president of legal and public affairs at Mediacom Communications, said that Mediacom is currently in negotiations with ESPN’s parent, Walt-Disney Company, and that the SEC Network is one of many Disney and ESPN properties the company is working to come to agreements with.
Mediacom didn’t agree to carry the Big Ten Network until nearly a year after its 2007 launch. Larsen said it took Mediacom a while to sign the Big Ten Network because college networks were new for TV providers.
“When those networks launch, the customer response tends to be around an event,” Larsen said. “I remember Iowa was playing Iowa State (in football). That was a big game. It was on the Big Ten Network. We got a lot of calls about that and then the calls died down.”
Larsen added that while it’s early in the process, Mediacom’s negotiations with the SEC Network shouldn’t be problematic.
“The Big Ten Network was a new network for colleges, so it went slower than some. Nobody knew what to make of it. They were sort of setting the mark and setting the stage for other networks to follow. So I don’t expect things to be contentious with the SEC Network.”
Still, negotiations can drag on. Twenty months after its launch, the Pac 12 Network is still in a long, drawn-out fight with DirecTV over costs. The Pac 12 does not release information about cost per subscriber or distribution, but the San Jose Mercury News reports it’s around 80 cents per subscriber for in-market customers.
The Big Ten Network currently charges cable providers up to $1 per in-market subscriber and 37 cents for out-of-market subscribers. Sports Business Journal reports that ESPN is asking for $1.30 per in-market subscriber for the SEC Network.
Larsen said the network would probably be included in basic cable packages for in-market schools and in a second tier package in out-of-market states. The Big Ten Network is currently offered in Mediacom’s expanded cable package for in-market subscribers but not offered to out-of-market subscribers.
After six and a half years on the air, the Big Ten Network is distributed in 52 million homes by over 300 cable and satellite providers.
To help move negotiations along, ESPN is appealing to SEC fans to put pressure on cable and satellite TV providers. The website getsecnetwork.com provides contact information for customers to tell their television provider that they want the channel.