Cox to carry SEC Network in ‘digital essential tier’

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU head coach Les Miles leads his team onto the field prior to the first half of an SEC football game against Arkansas on Nov. 23, 2012, in Fayetteville, Ark.. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU head coach Les Miles leads his team onto the field prior to the first half of an SEC football game against Arkansas on Nov. 23, 2012, in Fayetteville, Ark..

A large chunk of Louisiana’s population was assured Wednesday that Saturdays in Tiger Stadium will be available for television viewing this season.

The fledgling SEC Network, a 20-year, multiplatform partnership between the Southeastern Conference and ESPN, will be available via Cox Communications when the network is scheduled to launch Aug. 14.

The deal between media giants Cox and ESPN will bring SEC games to most cable television audiences in the Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Acadiana markets.

The agreement eased the minds of many LSU fans throughout the Bayou State as football season begins not long after initial SEC Network programming airs. The network, and its accompanying digital platform, will air more than 1,000 SEC events in its first year, including at least 45 SEC football games (with tripleheaders on Saturday,) 100 men’s basketball games, 60 women’s basketball games, 75 baseball games and more. All 21 of the SEC sports will be covered by the network in its inaugural season.

Programming on the SEC Network will air around the clock.

“As the official communications partner of LSU athletics and home to some of the biggest SEC fans in the nation, we are thrilled to offer the SEC Network on our channel lineup,” said Jacqui Vines, senior vice president and general manager of Cox’s southeast region.

The SEC Network will be offered on Cox’s “digital essential tier,” which includes 166 channels, including several ESPN options, Cox Sports Television and more. The price of that tier is $69.99 per month. In addition, the SEC Network will be available on the WatchESPN app, Cox officials said.

The agreement with Cox was a big one for the SEC Network. In the past few months, the network has struck deals with, among others, Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse, Google Fiber and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative. To date, 26 providers across the country have been secured to broadcast content this season, SEC Network officials said.

Two major providers in the Louisiana market have yet to come to terms with the SEC Network: Charter Communications and DirecTV. Charter serves the large population center on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain as well as the Houma-Thibodeaux area, Eunice, Opelousas and several other communities in South Louisiana. DirecTV has a sizable number of customers throughout various parts of the state.

Patti Michel, the spokesperson for Charter Communications’ south region, said that in recent interviews with the media, more questions than not are about a possible broadcasting arrangement between her company and the SEC Network.

“Charter is always seeking additional programming for our customers to enhance their entertainment experience,” Michel said.

SEC Network spokesperson Gracie Blackburn said network officials are “having conversation with all the television providers, trying to get everyone on board for Aug. 14.”