Charter Add Makes SEC Largest Launch in Cable History

Eight days before its Aug. 14 kickoff, the SEC Network has crossed the 91 million-home threshold as ESPN and Charter Communications announced their agreement for distribution of the fledgling service.

With Charter in the fold, it would appear that the SEC Network will stand as the largest network launch in cable history, surpassing the 90 million homes or so that Fox Sports 1 bowed on Aug. 17, 2013, when it converted from Speed Channel.

The Charter deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, was expected, as the MSO announced two weeks ago that it was finalizing a pact with ESPN, which owns the SEC Network alongside the Southeastern Conference, and that it would carry the service at launch.

The agreements covers all Charter markets, notably the systems it operates in the SEC footprint states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

All told, Charter has more than 4 million video subscribers around the country.

ESPN has been negotiating deals under which distributors would pay a monthly subscriber fee of $1.40 per month within the conference’s 11-state footprint, and a quarter elsewhere.

The pact leaves Verizon FiOS, which operates in the SEC states of Texas and Florida, as the only major provider trading within the conference boundaries that has yet to ink a carriage contract.  The telco has said it is negotiating with ESPN for the SEC Network, which will televise 450 events, including 45 football games, and offer another 550 contests on and the WatchESPN platform.

“We are excited to be bringing the SEC Network to Charter customers,” said Allan Singer, senior vice president of programming at the MSO.  “We know that there are many SEC fans and grads in our footprint who are ready to cheer on their team and we are glad that the SEC Network will be available to them when it launches on August 14th.”

“With the addition of Charter, SEC Network is currently slated to be available to eight of the top ten distributors nationwide at launch, covering 90 percent of all U.S. cable homes,” noted Sean Breen, Disney and ESPN Media Networks’ senior vice president of affiliate sales.  “We look forward to serving Charter customers nationwide, including many SEC markets.”