SBD/September 7, 2011/Media

Longhorn Network Adds Second UT Football Game, Slate Of UTSA Broadcasts

Adding second football game to LHN could increase pressure on distributors
ESPN announced that the Oct. 29 Kansas-Texas college football game will air on Longhorn Network, the second UT game this season slated to air on the new network. LHN, which aired this past Saturday's Rice-UT game, will be the exclusive national distributor for the KU-UT game outside of the state of Kansas, where it will be televised on select over-the-air stations to be determined at a later date (THE DAILY). In K.C., Chris Fickett reported the KU-UT game will air on the Jayhawk Television Network in Kansas. KU officials said that the game “would be offered in high definition and that the two schools would share production of the game." KU will “have its own announcers for the Jayhawk Network broadcast” (KANSASCITY.com, 9/2). In Houston, David Barron noted UT "attempted to ratchet up the heat on distributors” by adding KU-UT to the LHN lineup. Grande Communications, which has about 140,000 cable customers, on Friday "became the largest local carrier" of LHN. Grande services the UT campus in Austin, "plus customers on the north side of San Antonio.” Barron noted Grande, "given its positioning on the UT campus and in Central Texas, was a key target for ESPN." Grande spokesperson Doug Curran said the parties "spent a lot of time trying to reach a deal that made sense for both of us." Still, major carriers such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter and DirecTV are "still unsigned" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/3).

HOOKING ANOTHER: In San Antonio, Dan McCarney cited sources as saying that the Univ. of Texas-San Antonio "has reached an agreement for its final five home games to be broadcast" on LHN this season. Financial terms of the deal were not revealed, but one source indicated that it "runs through this season, with an option for two more." UTSA played its inaugural football game this past weekend at the Alamodome, a victory over Northeastern State. The NCAA last month blocked "attempts to broadcast high school games" on LHN, and a source said that the ruling "set the deal with UTSA in motion." McCarney noted it "likely didn't hurt" that UT men's AD DeLoss Dodds has been one of UTSA AD Lynn Hickey's "main professional mentors since their days together at Kansas State” (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/3).

STANDING IN THE WAY? In San Antonio, Tim Griffin reports LHN "wouldn't act as an impediment to a potential move of Texas to another conference if the Longhorns should choose to leave the Big 12." The LHN contract with ESPN "provides provisions where UT could walk away from its deal if it joins a new conference." The entire agreement with ESPN is "subject to the rules and regulations of any new conference where UT would relocate." The Pac-12, a rumored destination for UT, "already has a conference deal for the creation of regional sports networks for its members." A source indicated that "those agreements would supersede" LHN if UT joins the Pac-12. Griffin reports that "likely would force UT's programming to be folded into a reconstituted regional network with potential conference members such as Texas Tech, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/7). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes UT has "no way out unless it sheds its beloved Longhorn Network." If Texas A&M joins the SEC, as expected, UT's "only options would be cobbling together a weakened Big 12 or swallowing its pride to compromise on the network" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 9/7). In a profile of LHN, TEXAS MONTHLY's Jason Cohen writes, "Never has a single television channel caused such controversy without reaching any viewers.” LHN anchor Lowell Galindo said, “I’m not comparing the University of Texas to the Yankees in any way. But that would be a comparison as far as a polarizing team out there.” The fact that the network “has initially struggled to get into viewers homes is merely a short-term impediment.” If the Big 12 falls apart, LHN “makes it easier for UT to go independent; another option might be joining the Pac-12, which has a conference network planned with Fox” (TEXAS MONTHLY, 9/ '11 issue).

CATCH A TIGER: The AP's Alan Scher Zagier reported Univ. of Missouri is the "latest Big 12 member to join the digital realm, alongside Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State.” The Mizzou Network “will be an Internet-based channel with live, multi-camera broadcasts of the school’s Olympic sports along with behind-the-scenes glimpses into previously off-limits activities such as football practices or basketball locker rooms.” The channel “will roll out on Dec. 1," and includes "some premium content but mostly will be available at no charge.” UM Associate AD/Strategic Communications Andrew Grinch, who will oversee the project, said that “turning a profit is secondary to promoting the Missouri brand and its value as a recruiting tool.” Zagier noted the "initial goal is to offer Tigers fans a minimum of two to three videos daily, from interviews to game highlights to features on players or coaches.” UM is working with Learfield Sports and CBS Sports’ interactive division, and “also plans to partner with a local television station operated by the university’s journalism school” (AP, 9/4).
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