SEC Network: fine pregame, now where’s the game?

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Like most fans of college football I eagerly awaited the debut of SEC Network.  The first game was marquee enough:  No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina, a team that many prognosticators (including this website) expected, quite mistakenly it turns out, to appear in the first College Playoff.  “Nothing finer than South Carolina,” we proclaimed.

I had read that ESPN and SEC Network were combining coverage for this event, and it started out well, with a pregame show featuring, among others, Tim Tebow.  Clearly, television is Tebow’s true calling.  Not only is he handsome and personable, he’s articulate and entertaining. Jesus should be proud of him.

Tebow’s impression of Steve Spurrier recruiting him was hilarious.

But then came the game itself.

Except that it didn’t come to me. 

Apparently ESPN was combining only on the pregame show.  Once the game began, we were treated not to football but to an early round of U.S. Open tennis.

I started searching madly – and getting madder every second — through my 150 channels. There was no SEC Network, though I had heard that DISH, my satellite provider, would carry it.  I surfed the Internet for more information and found that, indeed, DISH carries it.  The ad reads:

“For as little as $34.99 per month you can enjoy all year your favorite college and pro sports in true HD for free.” 

Excuse me?  I realize the dollar isn’t worth much these days, but $34.99 a month is the same as free?  I’m afraid I don’t understand the new math.  I need to go back to school.

Oh, but look at all you get with SEC Network.  Not just the best college football, but 20 other sports as well.  Try as I might, I doubt I could name 20 other sports if you loaded a  Glock in front of me and pressed it to my forehead.  And I thought I was a sports writer.

Dear DISH, let’s try this math: divide $34.99 by 21, which my pocket calculator tells me comes to $1.66, and I’ll pay you that for the football.  I’ll even let you charge me that for the seven months of the year when there is no football, since I read the fine print that says, “All offers require 24 month commitment.”

I recall last year almost every SEC game I wanted to see was available on one of my DISH channels — ESPN or ESPN2 or ESPNU or somewhere else.  As part of my “bundle” for which I already pay $100 a month to have for “free.”

Oh well, at least we cheapskates still can watch SEC games occasionally on CBS, which retained the rights to show one in its 3:30 ET slot on Saturday afternoon.

We’ll see how this all plays out.  SEC Network claims it will have 62 million subscribers this year. 

But even if they’re not exaggerating – and so far I’ve not found the Southeastern Conference to be a bastion of honesty – that’s going to leave out a lot of people in a country of 310 million. 

We’re hearing complaints from northern cities that SEC Network is not available there.  Might this eventually have a negative effect on the vaunted SEC recruiting?

I’m old enough to remember when pay TV was first proposed.  We were told it would be a good thing because we no longer would have to endure commercials, blaring into our ears at higher volume than the rest of the broadcast.

Call me a curmudgeon, but it seems we’ve ended up with the worst of both worlds: more and more commercials, louder than ever (thank God for the mute button, which I wouldn’t need if they weren’t so loud), at more and more cost to the viewers.

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