GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The calendar says it’s only February, but National Signing Day has come and gone. Before we know it, spring practice will be here, followed by the Orange & Blue Debut game. After that, the countdown to the 2014 college football season will commence.
Will you have the SEC Network?
The Southeastern Conference and its member institutions are encouraging their passionate fans to start asking the question now.
ESPN is actively negotiating with cable companies and satellite providers across the country in an effort for them to make the SEC Network part of its basic packages.
Due to launch in August, the 24-hour SEC Network will air more than 1,000 live events during the 2014-15 athletic year, including 45-plus football games, 100 men’s basketball games, 75 baseball games, 60 women’s basketball games and 50 softball games.
To be clear, these will be games that will not air on CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or any of the other sister networks to the league. Viewers without the SEC Network will not have access to these games in their home or wireless devices.
“More than anything else, we don’t want people to be surprised when August rolls around,” explained Mike Hill, University of Florida executive associate athletic director for external affairs. “You can understand how the casual fan, even the serious fan, might think, ‘OK, we’re just talking about, say, Florida-Charleston Southern or Georgia-Wofford or Alabama-Georgia State.’ That is not going to be the case. We’re talking about some really big conference games that a lot of people will be talking about and people are going to want to see.”
Case in point: Texas A&M at South Carolina.
That’ll be the SEC Network’s debut game, set for Aug. 28 -- a Thursday night -- and if your cable company or satellite provider isn’t carrying SEC Network you’re going to be heading for a sports bar or waiting for highlights on SportsCenter later that night.
Now, Gators fans, picture yourself without in-home access to, say, Florida at Tennessee.
The blitz is on to make SEC fans understand how this brave new conference channel world is going to work.
“There’s a bit of a misunderstanding that this is a pay-per-view network,” Hill said. “This is a channel like ESPN or ESPN2 or ESPNU that is being marketed to the cable operators to carry as another channel in their basic cable lineup. That’s the goal. So this is not something that fans would have to pay a premium for.”
Translation: The SEC Network will be like the Cartoon Channel or Food Network or Turner Classic Movies, for example. It’ll be up to the provider to pick it up and include in the packages offered to customers.
The choice will be up to the providers, but the SEC has set up an avenue to inquire about the pending availability of the network.
Go here: http://www.getsecnetwork.com/
The above “Get SEC Network” website allows fans to punch in their zip codes and see whether their providers plan on carrying the channel or begin lobbying them to do so.
Follow @SECNetwork on Twitter for updates as the Aug. 21 launch draws near.
“It may seem like it’s early, but negotiations will heat up significantly in the next month or two between ESPN and cable operators and satellite operators,” Hill said. “The fans have been given an avenue here to let their voices be heard. The idea is that the SEC fan base is as strong and vociferous as any in the country and will let it be known this network is important to them.”