Time Warner Cable Signs on for ESPN's New SEC Net

Alabama Auburn SEC - H 2014
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Alabama Auburn SEC - H 2014

ESPN closed the deal, which also includes Bright House Networks, to bring carriage of the newest college conference network to about 60 million U.S. TV homes.

The college football conference that has been a big winner on the gridiron in recent years, the Southeastern Conference (SEC), on Thursday closed deals for carriage on Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, in time for the kick-off game on August 14 between Texas A&M and South Carolina.

The deal was closed by ESPN, which made an agreement in May 2013 to manage the network for at least the next 20 years, with plans to broadcast events across 21 sports, including at least 1,000 live events. Besides 45 men's football games in the first year, it also encompasses men's and women's basketball and baseball.

There was no financial data in the announcement, but reportedly the cable system operators are paying $1.40 per subscriber per month in markets where there are SEC teams and 25 cents per sub in non-SEC markets.

There are 14 colleges in the SEC, including the Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Tennessee Volunteers, LSU Tigers, Ole Miss Rebels and the Alabama Crimson Tide. SEC teams have won or shared the national football championship five times since 2009 (more than any other conference).  

According to the announcement, the SEC Network is now set to launch in about 60 million American TV homes, which would be just over half of all TV homes.

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"By delivering the SEC Network across Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks' nationwide footprint, including key markets within SEC territory, we are meeting the demands of fans while also adding value to customers' video subscriptions in advance of the network's launch next month," said Sean Breen, Disney and ESPN Media Networks senior vp affiliate sales.

"It is great to have Time Warner Cable as a distribution partner for the SEC Network," added SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

AT&T U-verse, Cox Cable, Comcast and the Dish Network are among those that previously signed on for the SEC Network.

When Dish agreed to carry the SEC Network, it was part of a larger negotiation with Disney, which owns ESPN, that came after months of intense negotiations over carriage of ABC local stations and networks.

Carriage deals for Brighthouse, the sixth largest U.S. cable system operator, are negotiated by Time Warner Cable, so it was not a surprise they are part of the announcement.

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When the SEC Network launches, it will mark the end of the CBS deal that allowed that network to have first pick of games it wants to air. Instead ESPN and the SEC Network will be able to air games alongside CBS.

The new network follows the launch of several other regional college sports networks, most notably the Big 10 and Pacific 12 networks.

The SEC Network will feature a range of news and feature programming as well as games. Among the best known talent that has signed on to appear on the new network are former Denver Broncos and New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, former New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy and football announcers Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer.