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Missouri enters uncharted territory with SEC Network

News Tribune Sports Commentary

If you’re going to make a deal with the devil, make sure it’s the right devil.

The Southeastern Conference entered a 20-year deal last week with ESPN to team up for a television network. If you’re a sport and you want exposure, the muscle that is the World Wide Leader is as good a place as any to go.

Under the contract, the SEC and ESPN will combine to show 1,000 live events per year (that’s almost three per day), with approximately 450 on some television channel. Three football games will be televised each Saturday to go along with more than 100 men’s basketball games.

The rest? Fire up your computer and climb into the digital age.

What does this mean for Mr. and Mrs. Missouri Tiger Fan? Today, nothing. Tomorrow, nothing.

A year from now, something.

This being college sports, and the SEC in particular, football is the key. With three games on the SEC Network, and only on the SEC Network, if you want to see a Tiger game that hasn’t been selected for ESPN, ESPN2 or CBS, the only other place to watch it will be the network.

What’s that? You don’t care about missing a handful of Missouri football games? Let’s talk men’s basketball.

Currently, SEC members have the rights to one football game and eight men’s basketball games each season.

Each year in football, Missouri used its one game as a pay-per-view option, usually the home opener on Labor Day weekend against an overmatched opponent.

This fall is the last time Missouri will do that and expect to shell out $39.95 for the Murray State contest if you care to see it without trekking to Faurot Field. But in 2014, that’s no longer an option.

Sorry about the digression back into football. This is the SEC, after all.

Back to men’s basketball. I’m not talking about the games you’re accustomed to seeing in the 12:45 or 3 p.m. window on Saturdays. These eight are the non-conference games against Southeastern State of Northwestern Oklahoma usually played in front of a half-filled Mizzou Arena on a Tuesday night in late November with a local sports anchor holding down play-by-play duties you could get even if you don’t have cable or satellite.

Yeah, those games. They’re gone to the SEC Network.

Do you care yet?

How about this? The network will televise SEC championships for all sports other than football. Yeah, that would appear to include the SEC men’s basketball tournament.

So if you want to watch Missouri football or men’s basketball, the SEC Network looks to be your one-stop shop.

How will you get it? Or will it be available on your particular cable system or satellite provider?

That will be no slam dunk. The Big Ten Network had troubles finding carriers to put it into homes and still has not gotten onto many cable networks in big cities.

Hey, didn’t the Big Ten recently decide to add Rutgers? And isn’t Rutgers, not exactly an athletics powerhouse, located just across the river from New York City? Sorry, another digression.

The Pac-12 Network, launched just last year, is going through similar growing pains. Too bad Rutgers is off the table.

ESPN representatives said they want distribution on the scale of ESPNU, which means its looking for approximately 75 million homes.

At the network announcement, AT&T U-verse was revealed as having signed on as a carrier. If you have whatever that is, congratulations, you’re in.

Mediacom, Dish Network and DirecTV subscribers will be pawns in the negotiating game. And while ESPN is the World Wide Leader, it hasn’t gotten very far in its partnership with Texas with the Longhorn Network, which means providers won’t necessarily be pushovers.

Stay tuned.

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