The Ire of Texas

With Longhorn Network, some short-term pain for long-term gain.

On Sept. 3, 2011, the Texas Longhorns took to the field against Rice for the first game ever to be shown on the ultra-slick, ultra-professional, one-of-a-kind Longhorn Network—and almost no one got to watch it. Aside from a handful of regional outfits, none of the major cable or satellite providers had picked up the nascent network in time for kickoff.

To say that fans were angry is an understatement. Here’s a sampling of the comments the Texas Exes got:

Not being able to watch the game sucks, dislike for the new Texas network.

Longhorn Network is nothing but a HUGE disappointment. Thanks for shutting us out…

Verizon is the only provider carrying this abortion of a network. I enjoy watching Texas so much that to miss this due to a near-sighted greed fest may push me away from the team altogether.

You know why the LHN picked Matthew McConaughey as their spokesperson? Because of his experience acting in the fi lm, Failure to Launch!

And my favorite: If a commercial plays in the woods, but no one carries the channel, does it make a sound?

As of press time, less than a month before the next game is to be shown on LHN, no new distribution deals have been announced, and it’s starting to look like we might have another crisis on our hands. We fans have reason to be miffed, caught as we are in the middle of humongous game of chicken between feuding corporate megaliths.

Whom to root for!? The Disney Corporation, which owns ESPN? It is, after all, the one partnering with UT on the network and shelling out the $300 million. What about the cable providers? Little old AT&T, DirecTV, Time Warner, and Dish Network are still not carrying the network despite thousands of requests from fans. Should we let them get pushed around by that big bully of cable programming, ESPN?

As a Time Warner subscriber, I’m one of the countless thousands hearing about how great this network is and wanting badly to see it. But I can’t get a straight answer about when or if the network is coming. Here’s a recent transcript from a chat with a Time Warner customer service rep:

TW: We’ve had discussions with ESPN, but as of today, there is no agreement.

TT: Any idea when you will reach an agreement?

TW: For now, no decisions have been fi nalized. I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.

TT: Are the discussions ongoing?

TW: We will surely inform our customers, once the decisions have been fi nalized.

TT: I’d like it before the next football game is shown on Oct. 29. That’s less than a month from now.

TW: I hope I have provided you all the required information.

What has surprised even me in this whole ordeal is the number of fans who have chosen to blame neither ESPN nor the cable providers but instead the University. I want LHN as badly as the next UT fan, but let’s all get a grip here. Anyone who thinks UT isn’t doing everything it possibly can to get the deals done has a screw loose. Just how much leverage do you think UT has with AT&T or the Disney Corporation? It took an entire year after the Big 10 Network launched for the state of Indiana to get to watch Hoosier basketball, but the deal eventually got done.

If you’re mad, call your cable provider. If you’re really mad, call Disney and then call your cable provider. But let’s acknowledge that what UT has done here is pretty remarkable from both branding and financial perspectives. Missing a game—or even two—will sting, no question. But in the long term, the Longhorn Network will do enormous good for UT and give us far more reasons for joy than pain.

File photo courtesy UT Athletics


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