Longhorn Network endures growing pains, DeLoss Dodds hopeful it will be more widely distributed soon


Football head coach Mack Brown created a lot of buzz when he expressed his concern about The Longhorn Network — how much of his time it consumed, how little input he had in the deal that created the network and how worried he was that other coaches were watching the network to gain an upper hand on his team.

Baylor head coach Art Briles may get the Longhorn Network in Waco but, at least in Central Texas, the recently launched network is not widely distributed. Since the Longhorn Network aired its first show two years ago, only a few Austin-area cable providers have picked it up.

“Pretty much what you would expect,” men’s athletics director DeLoss Dodds said. “Not near what you would want in terms of distribution, but if you would have written a script of how it would go, if it was a realistic script, we’re probably on target. We wanted it to all fall into place on the first day but these things just don’t.”

Brown estimated last October that he devotes six hours per week during football season to his three Longhorn Network shows. His squad’s practices are closed to the public but the Longhorn Network, which will generate $300 million for Texas over 20 years, regularly airs footage from the Longhorns’ practice.

“We’re a little overexposed,” Brown said last year. “We were given a deal that we had no input in ... Everybody’s going to have to sit down and see what we need to change and look at what they need to change, but there needs to be some give and take both ways.”

While Dodds insists that Texas doesn’t treat any other media differently than it treats the Longhorn Network, the network that is giving the University $15 million a year is the only news outlet that gets to watch practice. When Myck Kabongo announced his intentions to come back and play for the Longhorns for one more year, he did it on the Longhorn Network.

Other regional sports networks and second-tier sports networks, like the YES Network in New York and the NFL Network, have taken a while to gain widespread distribution. Comcast SportsNet Houston is keeping many local fans from being able to watch their beloved Astros, Rockets and Dynamo right now.

The Longhorn Network is going through similar growing pains.

“It’s a normal thing and it’s just frustrating and painful, but it’s normal. In the end it’s still a good thing,” Dodds said. “I’d hope by football season we’d have another big [cable television provider]. But I don’t know that. From the conversations we’ve had with ESPN, I think they’re hopeful we can get another one before football.”

Under the agreement between ESPN and UT, Texas is not contractually obligated to have any of its home football games televised by the Longhorn Network. But five games, three of them against non-conference opponents, have been exclusively televised by the Longhorn Network.

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Published on February 27, 2013 as "Longhorn Network working to resolve issues".