A month before launch, major Kentucky providers not on board with SEC Network

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJuly 12, 2014 

Kentucky Coach John Calipari talked to Wildcats Aaron Harrison (2) and Andrew Harrison in February. You can see UK's games in the Bahamas this summer on TV — if you get the SEC Network.

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  • What channels will the games be on?

    The arrival of the SEC Network changes the look of the local TV landscape slightly.

    The major national networks still will get their pick of University of Kentucky games — which include most men's basketball games and many football games — and they will be shown on those stations as always.

    Lower-level contests like exhibitions and games that are not picked up by the major networks will not be available to viewers on WKYT-TV as in previous years. So, if you don't have the SEC Network, you won't be able to see those games.

    In fact, UK officials have kept the men's basketball exhibition times for games against Georgetown and Pikeville as "TBA," providing some flexibility to have them televised on the SEC Network.

    Any games that previously were shown on the UK/IMG Network, like a handful of women's basketball games or several baseball games, are now owned by the SEC Network, UK Athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy explained.

    The Kentucky coaches' shows are the only TV inventory that will remain with the UK/IMG Network.

    All Olympic sports events that previously were available for viewing on the UK Athletics website are now the property of the SEC Network and will be available only on that platform.

    JENNIFER SMITH

  • Big Blue Bahamas TV schedule

    The University of Kentucky's schedule of games for its exhibition tour in the Bahamas this summer:

    Aug. 10: Puerto Rico, 1 p.m. (ESPNU)

    Aug. 11: Champagne Chalons-Reims, 1 p.m. (ESPNU)

    Aug. 12: Puerto Rico, 1 p.m. (ESPNU)

    Aug. 15: Dominican Republic, 1 p.m. (SEC Network)

    Aug. 16: Champagne Chalons-Reims, 1 p.m. (SEC Network)

    Aug. 17: Dominican Republic, 1 p.m. (SEC Network)

There could be a lot of blue Kentucky fans come the middle of August.

Their basketball team will be on a "Big Blue Bahamas" exhibition tour, and some of the games will be the first live events shown on the SEC Network.

But if current negotiations don't budge, most fans in Kentucky won't be able to see the games on the new network. Fans also might not be able to watch the Cats' football season opener two weeks later at Commonwealth Stadium. And those are just the games that will be missed in the short term.

[Related story: UK shoulders heavy load for the promise of SEC Network riches]

The SEC Network has announced deals with AT&T U-verse, Cox, Dish Network and Google Fiber, but major statewide providers such as Time Warner Cable and DirecTV are not on board yet.

The University of Kentucky has let ESPN do its negotiating, but the school and league are encouraging fans to take action before the team flies to the white sandy beaches.

"They're optimistic they can still get a deal done before launch," UK Athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy said, noting that the games will not be shown on the school's website.

"I think that was a big factor of them being willing to go broadcast our basketball games in the Bahamas."

The Southeastern Conference, which said it's having "productive conversations" with holdout cable and satellite providers, said UK's fans might be able to help the negotiations along.

"Given the rabid interest in basketball in the state of Kentucky and the fans of Kentucky, it's good content for the network," said Charlie Hussey, an associate commissioner for network relations. "Hopefully Kentucky fans will have access to that and be able to watch the Cats play those exhibition games."

UK and the league are advising fans to go to GetSECNetwork.com, a one-stop site to make requests to their local providers. Hussey said fans can also call their own providers or write on their bills that they want the SEC Network added.

To move fans to action, GetSECNetwork.com has a running countdown clock for when the network will launch. There's also a chart showing SEC schools that have been most vocal in demanding the network in their area.

As of Friday, UK was tied for third with Tennessee and Auburn with 9 percent expressing their desires to their providers. Alabama and Texas A&M fans expressed the highest demand.

When contacted by the Herald-Leader, Time Warner Cable spokesman Mike Hogan said: "I can't speculate at this point if we will carry the SEC Network. We've had discussions, but we don't have an agreement at this time."

On its website, DirectTV argued that people with no interest in sports "should not be forced to pay a huge premium for something they don't care to watch.

"No matter who provides your TV service, the relentlessly rising price of sports has already caused everyone's bill for basic TV to more than double over the past decade," it continued.

Various reports have said the SEC Network is charging $1.30 a month per customer in SEC markets.

DirectTV spokesman Robert Mercer reiterated that message to the Herald-Leader on Thursday, noting that his company "hopes to be able to provide it as soon as we possibly can.

"We are working cooperatively to ensure that everyone can still see their favorite SEC team play at the most reasonable value to all SEC fans and the rest of our customers throughout the Southeast."

But DirectTV noted that viewers should have a choice, that fans should have access to the games they want and viewers with no sports interest shouldn't have to pay for what they don't want.

The SEC spokesman said the conversations have been productive overall.

"We're optimistic we'll have more opportunities and announcements here soon," Hussey said.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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