SEC Network and DISH Reach Deal, Expect the Dominoes to Now Fall

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 4, 2014

SEC commissioner Mike Slive
SEC commissioner Mike SliveJohn Amis/Associated Press

Remember last month when we said not to worry if your cable or satellite provider hadn't signed up to carry the SEC Network?

Now you know why.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 3: Tyrann Mathieu #7 of the LSU Tigers returns a punt against the Georgia Bulldogs during the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

According to a release from The Walt Disney Company—parent company for ESPN—DISH Network has agreed to a long-term distribution agreement to carry a variety of Disney programming, including the Longhorn Network and the SEC Network.

ESPN president John Skipper provided details of the agreement, which includes multiplatform distribution across television, smart phones, tablets and computers.

Together, we are adding value to the traditional video subscription by making great content accessible across platforms and delivering new products, including our WatchESPN authenticated networks, the highly anticipated launch of the SEC ESPN Network, expanded distribution for Longhorn Network, and a reimagined ESPN Classic video-on-demand channel.

The creation of the SEC Network was announced in May 2013
The creation of the SEC Network was announced in May 2013John Amis/Associated Press

SEC commissioner Mike Slive also commented on the importance of the deal in a release from ESPN.

This is an important day for the SEC Network. We are pleased to welcome DISH to the SEC family. More than five months ahead of the network launch, it’s exciting to have a national distributor and our first satellite provider onboard.

Now, the dominoes will begin to fall.

When the creation of the SEC Network—which is wholly owned by ESPN—was announced last May, it was announced that AT&T U-Verse had already signed on to carry the channel upon its launch, which is slated for Aug. 14

ESPN president John Skipper (left) and SEC commissioner Mike Slive
ESPN president John Skipper (left) and SEC commissioner Mike SliveJohn Amis/Associated Press

Considering U-Verse is a national company which jumped to 5.5 million subscribers last quarter, it wasn't a bad dance partner to head to the ball with. But until this point, it didn't produce enough pressure on other providers to create the snowball effect needed to cause a big splash in the market.

DISH Network does.

It had 14.057 million customers as of Dec. 31, 2013 according to the release, which means that as of right now—five months before the launch of the network—19.56 million subscribers will have access to the new 24-hour cable network.

For reference, the Big Ten Network was available to 16 million homes when DISH Network signed up to carry it in Sept. 2007, according to the release available on Penn State's website. That deal was announced shortly after the network had already launched and several games had already been broadcast by the network, including Appalachian State's 34-32 upset win at Michigan.

The SEC Network will broadcast the Texas A&M at South Carolina and Temple at Vanderbilt games on Aug. 28, which means it gave itself a two-week buffer for distributors to sign on before fans start missing games.

Fans of SEC programs won't let that happen.

Now that DISH Network—a nationwide distributor—has agreed to carry the channel, it gives fans around the country options. Dominoes won't start to fall unless other carriers feel like fans are switching carriers to get the network.

With DISH now on board, that threat is now real and will exist for five months until others hop on.