Round one, they will say, did not go the Longhorn Network’s way.
This summer saw a battle develop between ESPN/Longhorn Network and cable and satellite distributors such as Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish Network.
And unless you’ve been sleeping under a pile of 300 million greenbacks, you know the main players in the TV business never saw it necessary to carry the Longhorn Network.
Now that the football season is all but over — the last game will be played by the time you pick up the next edition of this student newspaper — it’s clear the Longhorn Network has lost most of its leverage.
If Mack Brown appearing in commercials imploring couchsquatters to get the network so they “don’t miss a minute” of his team’s 7-5 season didn’t work, then it’s unlikely that anything else will. I don’t mean to be harsh, but Rick Barnes suggesting that practices of his unranked teams are must-see TV just won’t cut it. This is a football state, remember? Football sells. But not even the promise of a brand new season, with shiny new schemes and an abundance of exciting new players was enough to put the network in households not carrying Grande or Verizon FiOS.
What can be done to save some face? All the LHN’s eggs now in the baskets of the Erwin Center. First, it doesn’t help that fan interest in the basketball program is relatively low right now. A lack of recognizable players and surefire NBA first-rounders is one cause. If this team still had Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton or if this network came in the days of Aldridge, Tucker and Gibson, switching your cable providers to get the 12 games shown might be more appealing. But fans — excluding the die-iest of diehards — haven’t complained much about the inability to watch Longhorn basketball games in 2011, which is telling because there have only been two games not on the network this season.
To that, you could argue that if fans can’t see the game on TV, they should go in person. Yeah, only if they want to pay $10 for parking and then pay another $10 per ticket — for a cheap game — and only if they live in a close enough proximity to Austin and only if they don’t have to work or stay home on Tuesday nights.
The network will undoubtedly do some cool things with baseball season. Augie Garrido’s always a good time, the atmosphere is easy-going, the players are talented and goofy and the tradition is the best in the nation. But it’s also a program that does nothing more than break even financially, so don’t expect up-close-and-personal batting practices to elicit hearty cries for Time Warner to carry the network.
There’s nothing else for the Longhorn Network to do but wait for next fall, wait for negotiations to reopen and hope for Texas to put together a football season that is noteworthy enough to give big cable and satellite distributors no choice but to carry the Longhorn Network.
So whenever you see Rick Barnes on the TV, telling you and your friends not to miss out on one more second of behind-the-scenes footage of his Horns, chuckle to yourself and think, “this battle’s already lost.”
Printed on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 as: With football winding down, ESPN's network low on options