Longhorn Network running out of time

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It was a wonderful Friday morning two weeks ago when Longhorns fans with AT&T U-Verse woke up to find out their cable provider had begun carrying the Longhorn Network.

It was announced that the Longhorn Network would carry each of Texas’ first two football games against Wyoming and New Mexico, meaning if you wanted to see those games, you’d likely have to buy a ticket to see it in person. Now that those games have been played, however, it may mean that the clock has struck midnight on the Longhorn Network getting any further distribution until next fall.

“There’s nothing like it anywhere in collegiate athletics,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said of the Longhorn Network. “It’s unique. Obviously, it’s lucrative. I don’t know if anyone else is going to have a chance to do it again.”

The 20-year, $300 million agreement the University of Texas and ESPN signed last year does not require the Longhorn Network to televise any football games, but it’s gotten exclusive rights to two games each of the last two seasons, with the possibility of adding more this year. If it doesn’t, fans with Time Warner might have to wait until next season to get the network.

Disney and ESPN Media Networks executive vice president David Preschlack estimated that more than a million AT&T U-Verse customers can now watch the Longhorn Network on channels 609 and 1609. But without the demand generated from the promise of another exclusive Longhorn Network football game, there might not be another major cable provider willing to carry it.

“This is another example of how we continue to deliver the content customers want,” Jeff Weber, AT&T Home Solutions president of content and advertising services, said. “We know fans are passionate about watching Longhorn football, and we’re thrilled to offer Longhorn Network to U-verse TV customers in Texas and nationwide.”

If the Longhorn Network does pick up another football game this year, it would likely be Texas’ contest against Kansas in Lawrence Oct. 27. The Longhorns’ 43-0 win over the Jayhawks last year, along with a victory over Rice, were both exclusively televised by the Longhorn Network.

Without another football game to have to call its own, the draw to coverage of other sports will be stronger than last year but still may not be enough to convince a provider like Time Warner to carry the Longhorn Network. Men and women’s basketball teams that failed to win an NCAA tournament game, a baseball team that didn’t play in the postseason for the first time since 1998 and a softball squad that came five outs short of a Women’s College World Series should all improve from last year to this one.

If you want to watch the Longhorn Network, find a friend with AT&T U-Verse. Because even with an improved group of non-revenue squads combined with the pressure of people considering switching to AT&T U-Verse, there isn’t enough to convince Time Warner or any other major cable provider to carry the Longhorn Network now that the Wyoming and New Mexico games have been played.

Printed on Thursday, September 13th, 2012 as: LHN could keep fans waiting till next season