Longhorn Network to launch today without Central Texas distributor

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Kevin Dunn, host of ESPN’s new Longhorn Network, prepares for a taped segment to be filmed Thursday afternoon in the new Longhorn Network Studio. So far, a lack of distribution deals with media providers will prevent consumer access to the Network until at least Sept. 1.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorn Network landed its first broadcasting contract with a cable provider yesterday, but some fans may not be able to tune in tonight in time for the 6 p.m. launch.

Yesterday, the Longhorn Network, a collaboration between UT and ESPN, and Verizon’s FiOS TV announced a partnership that will allow all FiOS subscribers to tune in to the network beginning Sept. 1, just two days before Texas’ first football game this season against Rice University. As of press time, no other distribution deal has been struck.

FiOS TV is only available in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Verizon spokeswoman Stefanie Scott said the company has no plans to bring the provider to Austin.

Scott said Verizon pursued the partnership in response to consumer demand.

“We see this as an example of Verizon bringing the best in collegiate sports to our customers,” Scott said. “Longhorn fans are the most loyal and enthusiastic in collegiate sports fans.”

Longhorn Network vice president of production Stephanie Druly said network officials are comforted to see the first provider to officially pick up the network. She said the Longhorn Network staff has been preparing for the launch as if they already had a contract in place, so not much has changed.

“As far as how the network is being run, nothing is different,” Druly said.

She said other contracts are in the works and she would not be surprised to see other companies making deals in time for tonight’s launch.

Finance junior Daniel Fechner said he hopes providers can finalize their contracts with the network before the end of the season, but until that happens, he will attend every game possible.

“Time Warner should definitely pick it up,” Fechner said. “I’m not terribly concerned about it because I will be at the games, but I know [the network] will add something to game days.”

Printed on Friday, August 26, 2011 as: Lack of Central Texas distributor won't stall awaited programming.