Longhorn Network launch to coincide with football season’s start

Will Alsdorf

The Longhorn Network will launch Aug. 26, just in time for a new school year and football season, according to an announcement Wednesday.

The 24-hour subscription-only cable channel will launch the first week of the fall semester and one week before the first football game, said Dave Brown, vice president of programming and acquisitions for the Longhorn Network. First announced in January, the 20-year contract between ESPN and UT guarantees roughly $300 million for the University.

“We want to capture the excitement of a football season to coincide with the launch,” Brown said.

ESPN and UT also revealed several of the shows on the lineup, including “Longhorn Extra,” a nightly UT sports news show, and “Texas All Access,” a weekly show that will give behind-the-scenes looks at University teams and groups, including the football team. The shows will give fans a look at UT football “like nobody’s seen before,” said head football coach Mack Brown in a press release.

Local sports journalists worry that giving ESPN exclusive access to athletes and programs will limit their ability to bring sports reporting to readers and viewers.

“It’s going to make our journalistic lives a living nightmare,” Kirk Bohls, an Austin-American Statesman sports columnist, wrote in a public, online Q&A chat session. “Who do you think will get all the scoops? Terrible news for us. Texas basically just bought a network.”

Daily Texan Sports Editor Trey Scott said the University closely controls the media’s access to the football program because it makes so much money for UT. He believes the Longhorn Network will create resentment among local media who have not had the level of access to UT football that ESPN will have.

“Viewers will finally be able to see more behind-the-scenes stuff, but I believe that Mack Brown is going to be very particular with what ESPN shows, the agenda it sets and how it presents the news,” Scott said.

Although the facility will be off campus near Interstate Highway-35 and Eighth Street, the network will still have a large presence on the 40 Acres, said women’s athletics director Chris Plonsky.

“[Longhorn Network] will have two facilities on campus with a direct fiber link [to the studio],” Plonsky said. “They will be on campus a lot.”

Despite the off-campus location, Dave Brown said there will still be plenty of opportunities for student internships, though the selection process won’t start until July.

The network will later announce non-athletic shows, including speakers who visit UT and faculty and student work, he said.

“[Longhorn Network will] highlight the mission of the University, and what faculty and students are doing,” Dave Brown said.