published Friday, April 25th, 2014

SEC Network still unavailable to most Chattanoogans

Tennessee coach Butch Jones leads his first set of Volunteers onto the field before the 2013 season opener against Austin Peay in Knoxville. The Vols will kick off their 2014 season on the new SEC Network.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones leads his first set of Volunteers onto the field before the 2013 season opener against Austin Peay in Knoxville. The Vols will kick off their 2014 season on the new SEC Network.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Tennessee, Vanderbilt and reigning league champion Auburn are among six Southeastern Conference football teams who are scheduled to kick off their 2014 seasons on the SEC Network.

There may be one or two more, but Chattanooga-area subscribers to Comcast Xfinity or the city-owned EPB are still awaiting agreements between ESPN and their providers. The SEC Network is scheduled to launch Aug. 14 and will open its football broadcast schedule with Texas A&M's trip to South Carolina on Aug. 28.

"Since I've been at EPB a little over a year, this has been our most requested network from our customers by far," John Pless of EPB's marketing department said Thursday afternoon. "The interest is huge, because the SEC is almost like a religion here in the South. We've been in negotiations with them, which is something we have to do any time we add a content provider, but we do plan on adding that as soon as it's available."

The SEC Network will televise 450 live events a year, including about 45 football games, 100 men's basketball games and 60 women's basketball games. It has agreements already with Dish Network, which has 14 million subscribers nationally, and AT&T U-verse, which has 4.5 million.

ESPN released 14 separate commercials on its GetSECNetwork.com website Tuesday that reflect the traditions of each of the league's institutions, and included were avenues in which SEC fans could contact their cable providers to request the new network.

"We are in regular discussions with ESPN on many topics, including the SEC Network," said Alex Horwitz, the vice president of public relations for Comcast Big South Region. "Our goal is to reach an agreement that offers the best terms for our customers and our company and keeps our costs and our customers' monthly costs to a minimum.

"Unfortunately, we don't have an expected date for an announcement for the SEC Network on Comcast."

The Sports Business Journal reported earlier this year that the SEC Network will cost $1.30 a month for cable subscribers, or $15.60 annually, in the SEC's 11-state footprint. The SEC Network will cost an extra 25 cents a month outside the league's footprint.

In the 11-state footprint that contains the Big Ten Network, cable customers pay $1 a month. The Big Ten network launched in 2007 with two prominent carriers and now has more than 300 providers.

When asked Monday if he was disappointed the SEC Network had not signed on with more cable providers at this point, league commissioner Mike Slive said he was "ecstatic" to have Dish and AT&T U-verse on board so quickly.

One casualty coinciding with the SEC Network's arrival is Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast, which is shutting its telecasting operation on June 1 after 15 years. CSS televised just six SEC football games last season and one head-to-head matchup -- Missouri at Vanderbilt -- but those telecasts represented a huge chunk of revenue.

There is a possibility the SEC Network could replace CSS on the various channel listings.

"We have not made any formal announcement at this point," Pless said, "but what we are telling our customers is that we plan on carrying the SEC Network once it is launched in August. I don't see any glitches, hiccups or bumps moving forward."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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