Longhorn Network Debuts Today, But Will Anybody Be Watching?
The Longhorn Network, ESPN's groundbreaking and controversial partnership with the University of Texas, launches today with much fanfare and great hoopla to a nationwide audience of … well ... actually, not much.
The network kicks off with probably no more than a few thousand households nationwide - and no access in such major core markets like Houston, San Antonio or even Austin.
Even so, ESPN and UT officials are relentlessly bullish on their 20-year, $300 million partnership.
"This is a good thing," said Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds. "I love that we're able to do it. I love that the (Big 12) conference has allowed us to do it. Everybody can do something special and do it in their own way. That's America."
So far, the only distribution deal ESPN has nailed down is with Verizon's FiOS service, which has nearly four million subscribers nationwide, but only about 250,000 are in Texas, and they're mostly in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs.
As things stand now, they are the only people who will be able to see the Horns on TV, when the LHN shows Texas' football opener against Rice on September 3rd.
A lot of UT football fans aren't going to like this. That's because ESPN, so far, has not been able to strike deals with major carriers like Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T U-verse, DirecTV and Dish Network.
Until the big carriers do pick up the LHN, Texas Longhorn football will have about as many viewers as a junior college volleyball match.
UT football fans outside the DFW area are S-out of luck.