Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Is The SEC Network Worth The Cost?

It’s been 85 years since the first broadcast signal was put on on American airwaves. Since then, it’s evolved into so much more than we can imagine. We have cameras that show more detail than ever before. The amount of channels we get are ever increasing, thus choice in content is expanding. So, why do people still find reason to cut their TV services? Simple. It’s all about money. Let me help break it down for you.

As a person who’s worked in broadcast media for about six years, even in that very short timeframe I have learned so much about the industry and, more importantly, it’s future. As the internet is slowly becoming an essential part of our everyday lives, the TV set is adapting to that change by way of Smart TVs and internet apps. That leaves cable and broadcast companies on the wrong side of the stick, unfortunately, but opens a new window.

That’s why the 20-year deal to create the SEC Network with ESPN and the SEC has me baffled. Obviously, this was a long-awaited project that was discussed ever since the SEC and ESPN signed the original 15-year agreement with ESPN to cover many of the league’s events in 2008. But a lot has changed since then and a lot will change in the TV industry by 2034, when the contract is set to expire. So why make a deal that long knowing good and well American’s viewing habits are changing?

There is one thing I do know about cable operators: They pay a a heck of a lot of money to sports networks for their content. According to whatyoupayforsports.com, ESPN requires operators to pay $5.06 per subscriber so that you can get SportsCenter on their main network. ESPN2 is an additional .67 cents and to get your ESPN fix in 3D it’s another $2.71.

And it’s not just ESPN. TNT and TBS, who broadcast MLB, NBA and NASCAR among others, charge a combined $1.80. It may not seem like much alone, but if you compare it to a bunch of other non-sports networks that charge anywhere between .05 and .20 cents, it’s a lot. And all of those rates continue to rise as demand grows. ESPN is literally causing your cable bill to get higher.

So the reason ESPN and SEC struck such a long-term deal is because they know that sports fans will always want live sports. Remember the times when it was rare to see Alabama on television? Or even see the Vanderbilt game? Now, you are able to find that game somewhere on your lineup, thanks to some historic deals made by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and the respective networks. He knows more than anybody in the business that fans, especially those in the sports-rabid SEC, demand they should be able to watch their team.

But many Americans are fed up with paying for watching TV shows. Comcast reported a 60,000 subscriber loss, while Time Warner Cable lost over 100,000 customers. With alternatives like Netflix and Hulu+, which would cost a combined total of about 17.98 minimum, it’s easy to do the math. For sports fans, they can use WatchESPN to view ESPN and other channels on their computers and mobile devices…with a subscription to a provider of their programming. According to the SEC Network deal, you will be able to do this for the new network as well.

But wait! Could the cable networks simply refuse to carry the SEC Network so that they don’t raise their rates to their subscribers? Sure they could. But once that Georgia fan realizes that the Georgia/Tennessee game is carried on the SEC Network and Comcast doesn’t carry it, he will demand that Comcast get the network because he doesn’t want to miss any game because he’s a fan. And many other Georgia and Tennessee fans will do the same thing. Soon, operators will have no other choice but to give the customers what they want. Yet, those same customers will be baffled as to how their bill rose.

So, is the SEC Network worth the cost? The answer to this question is yes and no. It is worth it because it’s another way to get your fix of your team’s news and other medium to watch your team in action. However, the rising cost of cable may cause even more Americans to get frustrated with cable and satellite, thus making the SEC Network a flunk. Most of this really depends on what ESPN will charge to operators to carry the network. But, it already seems like an agreeable rate, considering AT&T U-Verse has already signed on.

Only time will tell if the SEC Network will be a fantastic source of sports or an absolute fluke.

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