On August 26th, the Longhorn Network will reach its one year anniversary. Unfortunately, the Network gets more coverage for its lack of carrier distribution and rivals’Â vitriolÂ from administration, coaches and fans. The Longhorn Network is the modern day Charlie Brown.Â It just can’t win.
On the distribution front, saying that negotiations between ESPN and carriers are moving at a snail’s pace would be an improvement from where they are at now. Comcast, a large cable provider in Houston, and ESPN negotiated a new deal in January without the mention of the Longhorn Network being discussed. DIRECTV has even gone so far as to insult the network stating that “two UT Football games do not constitute a network.”
Time Warner Cable Communications manager for Central Texas Ryan Kelly spoke with Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman on Monday saying “We are notÂ in talks with ESPN, and we are not planning to carry the Longhorn Network.” Some may find that statement confusing considering Time Warner Cable sponsored the Longhorn’s Spring game a few months back which was broadcast on the Longhorn Network.
Dish Network seems to be the most promising of the 4 major national carriers, but the word we keep continue to receive from them is that they are â€œworking hard to provide the channel.â€ This is the least controversial statement any of the major carriers has made.
One of the major issues that providers have to consider when putting the Longhorn Network on their lineup of sports channels is the backlash they will receive from adding the network. Although the Longhorns have a large following, there is an even larger following that would cancel their services in spite of the Longhorn Network. So if DIRECTV were to add the Longhorn Network, the gain inÂ subscribers must be greater than the loss of subscribers that they will lose. At this point carriers do not see the value.Â They do not see the risk involved in putting the network out there to lose money from non-UT fans.
The Longhorn Network has polarized college football fans across the nation. While ESPN controls the programming, they work with the University of Texas on the programming content specific to UT. But that doesn’t mean ESPN does not control other programming that isn’t UT-related. For instance, ESPN has a deal with the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and the University of Texas-San Antonio to broadcast football games themselves, increasing the inventory of live football games on the network. An issue was brought up by Texas Tech administrators about their game against Texas State University, a Member of the WAC, in San Marcos, TX which would have been broadcast on the Longhorn Network. Â The Red Raiders went so far as threatening to play an 11 game season to avoid playing on the Longhorn Network. This created an uproar among other college football fanbases towards the Longhorns, even though they weren’t in control of what WAC games would be shown on the network.
So Longhorns are extremely frustrated that people who don’t care about the Longhorns are controlling which carriers provide the channel. Not only are fans frustrated,Â but so are local businesses that are being affected by the lack of carriers picking up the channel.
David Rudd, owner of Cover 3 bar in North Austin, said that the effect of not having the Longhorn Network for the first two football games at his bar is “extremely negative.” “Those Saturdays tend to be one of the busiest days of the week especially with UT obviously but it definitely hurts (Cover 3 Bar).”
This is quite a common case among the sports bar owners in Austin I talk to who don’t see the value in switching providers to Grande when they don’t offer certain packages like the NFL Sunday Ticket which is very popular among NFL football fans. So bar owners are forced to lose business because of the Longhorn Network and the people running it.
Time is running out on the Longhorn Network. At first, Longhorn fans and Austin businesses were excited, now they are frustrated. Soon that frustration will turn to apathy. When that happens, the Longhorn Network loses and Texas fans will be more upset with the University of Texas than ESPN. Â It’s time to make a change because as it stands right now, people are never going to see the Longhorn Network.
Chris Flanagan, Hornsports.com contributor (email:email@example.com)
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