SBD/May 5, 2011/Media

ESPN Will Hire Longhorn Network Staff, But UT Has Power To Do Some Firing

ESPN will hire staff for the forthcoming Longhorn Network, but the Univ. of Texas "will have the right to do some firing," according to John Maher of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. The licensing agreement between ESPN, UT and IMG College, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, states, "In the event that UT reasonably determines that any on-air talent does not reflect the quality and reputation desired by UT for the Network based on inappropriate statements made or actions taken by such talent and so notifies ESPN, ESPN will cause such talent to be promptly replaced." ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz in an e-mail said, "This is not common in ESPN agreements because this UT network is so unique/new for us. ... The provision does not allow for random replacement of commentators or reaction to critical comments." Maher reports the licensing agreement also states that ESPN projects it "will spend $13 million to outfit a studio at UT while production costs will start at $15 million a year" and increase 3% annually. In addition, ESPN projects that its "overhead will start at $11 million a year" and increase by 4% annually. ESPN is "required to carry at least 200 Longhorn athletic events a year on the network." If UT decides "not to participate in an athletic conference in one or more sports, ESPN would have 60 days to forge an exclusive deal for those television rights and after that period would have 48 hours to match the terms of any competing offer" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 5/4). Krulewitz on Twitter sought to clarify UT's role in Longhorn Network talent, writing, "That language is not about critical analysis of University of Texas’ teams or athletic performance. It’s about extreme cases of inappropriate comments and/or conduct. Any institution or business would have expectations of protecting its brand in circumstances that obviously would be considered serious by any objective measure" (TWITTER.com, 5/4).
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