Providers in Negotiations to Carry SEC Network

COLUMBIA - Mizzou football begins in just under four months and for many fans, and companies, preparations are well underway for the upcoming season.

The cable companies that serve Tiger fans across mid-Missouri spoke with KOMU 8 News Friday about the newly created SEC Network and the state of plans to carry it for the 2014 season. The network announced Thursday the Missouri Tigers will make their SEC Network football debut when the University of Central Florida visits Faurot Field on Saturday, September 13.

Matt Garrett, Director of Audience Developement for KOMU 8, said Mediacom, CenturyLink and Charter Communication provide cable for the majority of the KOMU 8 News viewers. KOMU 8 News spoke with each of the three companies Friday morning about any ongoing negotiations with ESPN to provide the SEC Network for the upcoming season.

Mediacom Group Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs Thomas Larsen said Mediacom began working with ESPN several months ago and negotiations are underway.

"We're actively in negations with ESPN, who represents the SEC network, as part of a global contract," Larsen said.

Larsen said carrying the SEC Network comes as a part of a larger package, which would include additional channels of both Disney and ESPN content.

"From what I understand, the real programming doesn't really start until the fall with football season," Laursen said. "I don't think there's any real pressure on either side to get a deal wrapped up in the next day or two."

Laursen said he did not have an estimated time in which an agreement would be met, but confirmed the two are in the negotiation process.

A spokesperson for CentryLink gave a similar explanation.

Greg Baker, Marketing Development Manager for the northern region of Missouri, said CenturyLink is also in negations with the SEC Network. He said he could not comment on the details of an ongoing conversation with ESPN.

"Each time we make a change we have to weigh how that effects the cost," Baker said, "That's speaking in general, but there's no doubt there's a demand in Columbia."

Baker said CenturyLink takes the quality of the programming, any changes to the cost of their coverage to customers and the demand for content into consideration when deciding to make any changes to programming. He said CentruyLink customers have used a variety of methods to ensure CenturyLink knows their hope for new SEC coverage.

Wes Shirley with Charter Communication spoke with KOMU 8 as well. He said the company's policy bars him from discussing any sort of contract negotiations until finalized. He said if there is any update to Charter Communication's coverage there will "definitely" be an announcement when the time comes.

As it stands now, Dish Network is the only provider in the mid-Missouri area that has reached an agreement with ESPN to carry the SEC Network when it launches on August 14, 2014.

According to the SEC Network's website, the network will air SEC content 24/7 including 45 SEC football games, 100 men's basketball games, 60 women's basketball games, 75 baseball games, 50 softball games and additional events from the SEC's 21 annual sports. Programming will also include studio shows and original content such as SEC Storied.

The Missouri Tiger football team kicks off for their first game August 30 at home against South Dakota. A kickoff time and coverage had not been announced as of Friday.