With DirecTV, Suddenlink deals, SEC Network's reach on par with Big Ten Network

The ESPN-backed SEC Network has announced a linchpin carriage agreement with DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) that will push the regional sports network (RSN) into 87 million pay-TV homes when it launches Aug. 14.

The RSN also announced a licensing agreement with Suddenlink as part of a broader content rights renewal with parent company The Walt Disney Company.

Overall, the SEC Network now has a distribution girth on par with the biggest of college-sports RSNs, the 21st Century Fox-backed Big Ten Network, which is available in more than 90 million pay TV homes and boasts about 60 million subscribers.

With the agreement with the nation's No. 2 pay-TV provider in place, the SEC Network need only secure rights deals with Verizon FiOS (NYSE: VZ) and Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) in order to have carriage across all major pay-TV providers.

"The SEC boasts powerhouse athletic programs, especially in football, representing deeply loyal communities, many of which do not have any professional teams," said Dan York, DirecTV's chief content officer. "The depth of SEC competition and the quality ESPN brings to game production and complementary programming makes SEC Network a valuable addition to our sports programming lineup, and we're excited to bring it into our customers' homes and on their devices."

"Our agreement with DirecTV continues to push the SEC Network towards one of the most successful network launches when it debuts on August 14," said Sean Breen, Disney and ESPN Media Networks senior VP, affiliate sales. "We're proud to deliver the SEC Network nationwide via DIRECTV in advance of the Texas A&M and South Carolina game later this month."

Suddenlink Communications has announced a broad carriage renewal agreement with The Walt Disney Company that will include licensing of the anticipated SEC Network regional sports channel as well as expanded multiscreen access to Disney content.

Although monetary terms weren't disclosed, the parameters of Disney's Suddenlink deal are very similar to those outlined in the conglomerate's just-announced pact with the National Cable TV Cooperative.

In addition to licensing the SEC Network--a key consideration, given Suddenlink's footprint includes Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas--the MSO will also gain access to the University of Texas-focused RSN, the Longhorn Network, as well as a full range of other ESPN-branded channels.

A large complement of Disney TV Everywhere extensions are also included in the deal, such as WatchESPN.

"A number of our customers have expressed interest in the SEC and Longhorn Networks, and a  sizable majority have told us how much they value Disney networks like ESPN and ABC Family," said Kathy Payne, Suddenlink senior VP and chief programming  officer. "We're very pleased we can provide those customers what they've said they want, and we'd like to specially thank the SEC and Longhorn fans who contacted us for their enthusiasm and patience, as we worked with Disney to complete this comprehensive, long-term agreement."

For more:
- read this DirecTV press release
- read this Cablevision press release

Related links:
Suddenlink boots up 300 Mbps service in suddenly hot Texas broadband market
NCTC signs broad-reaching renewal deal with Disney
DirecTV close on SEC Network deal, working with NFL, miles apart on SportsNet LA

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