DISH subscribers, congratulations: your televisions will have the sights and sounds of Texas and the ESS EEE CEE this fall, as DISH announced a deal with the Longhorn Network and the SEC Network. So what does this mean for you, other cable viewers and the college football world as a whole? Here's the deal.
Here's ESPN's announcement of the deal, complete with all the bullet points you need to know:
- New Multi-Year Deal to Deliver Best in Sports, News and Entertainment to DISH Customers, In and Out of the Home
- DISH First to Secure Rights to Carry Disney, ABC and ESPN Networks for Over-the-Top, Personal Subscription Service
- Landmark Deal Adds Disney Junior, Fusion, Longhorn Network, ESPN3, To-Be-Launched SEC ESPN Network and the Full Suite of Authenticated WATCH Services
- Expanded Video-On-Demand Content Available to DISH Customers at Home, On-The-Go
- Dismissal of All Legal Proceedings Between the Two Companies
The "personal subscription" part is a doozy; as Team Speed Kills notes, that's the DISH Network firing the first salvo in the coming broadband-only TV wars. DISH isn't offering a la carte channels to cord-cutters at this point, mind you—but now it can.
The numbers game
It's weird to think of the Big Ten Network and the SEC Network as "competitors," being that they're selling different content to different swaths of the country, but when it's in the larger scope of the Big Ten and the SEC as wholes—and individual athletic departments dealing with finite resources like money and prospective athletes—this most certainly is a competition, and that's to say nothing of Fox's investment with the BTN and ESPN with the SEC Network.
So with all that, how many subscribers each channel has matters, especially with the Big Ten setting its sights on subscriber markets in Washington DC, Baltimore, New York, New Jersey and potentially Philadelphia (which sits just 60 miles away from the Rutgers campus). As of right now, the Big Ten says it's got 52 million subscribers, including 20 million in its footprint.
The SEC Network, meanwhile, is aiming for 75 million subscribers. With this deal, it just added 14 million to the fold. And that's before any transformative effects this deal might have on carriage rates in the southeast. Sure, local cable companies will likely carry the network too, but the prospect of being a DirecTV subscriber in, say, Alabama seems substantially less attractive now unless DTV gets in on this deal too. And speaking of which...
What to do about DirecTV
As you might remember, the Pac-12 Network has run into a brick wall with getting picked up by DirecTV. These satellite deals aren't crucial for a network's viability, but 38 million subscribers is a big, big deal. And as Barking Carnival points out, there's another big dog in the park now too:
With DISH now on board, the biggest dominos yet to fall are DirecTV (38 million customers) and Comcast, which, if their purchase of Time Warner Cable goes through, will oversee 30 million subscribers.
Now, whether the SEC Network will run into the same problems—and whether it can bring the LHN along with it—remains to be seen. As mentioned earlier, the DISH deal puts the entire southeast region (where football is so fiercely part of the cultural fabric it may as well be a religion) into play in a way that doesn't correlate with the Pac-12 and the west coast, and playing hardball here may not be in DTV's best interests.
Here's what Twitter has to say about all this.
To the best of my knowledge neither ESPN or the SEC has revealed how much equity the SEC has in the network. That's still the news here.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 4, 2014
Dish Network picking up the SEC Network is good news for worried DirecTV customers. Seems pretty inevitable now http://t.co/05qe3HexaU— Matt Scalici (@MattScalici) March 4, 2014
.@espn is making a promotional ad for the new SEC network TODAY! Look for Truman and show your school spirit. Be at Tiger Plaza at 11:55 am!— Mizzou Strat Comm (@MUStratComm) March 4, 2014