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Will Longhorn TV Start a Trend?

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The University of Texas hopes to 'hook' new fans nationwide. Earlier today it was announced that Texas struck a deal with ESPN that will result in the launching of their own cable television network, UT TV, beginning in September.

Ted Turner's vision for his Atlanta Braves to have their games seen all across America has been mimicked by many professional teams since TBS started trend-setting in 1976, but never before have we seen a TV deal centered around university athletics like this one, though.

If there was ever a collegiate athletic program worthy of country-wide viewing, Texas is it. Since the birth of the UT athletic program in 1896 (just days after the conclusion of the Mexican War), each of the 20 Longhorn sports programs have combined to win 48 National Championships. The Burnt Orange and White brand has become one of the most recognizable in American sports, on the same level as Carolina blue or Yankee pinstripes.

Maybe that's why they could finagle $300 million dollars out of ESPN for this 20-year deal. And how will all that cash be distributed? $52.5 million of that is guaranteed to IMG College, which handles marketing and licensing for UT. As for the rest, President Bill Powers writes, "During the first five years of the contract, UT will receive about $10 million per year. For these five years, half of that income will be devoted to academic and faculty support. The remainder will support UT Athletics. We will determine at a later date how the funds will be used beyond the initial five-year period." details the broadcasting agreements below:

This is an enormous step for a university to launch its own network almost entirely dedicated to sports. Nearly every college in the country has at least a student television network that is broadcast locally. Some such as Florida State even team up with PBS to broadcast shows to select subscribers regionally in Florida.

Perhaps the closest thing we've seen to Texas so far is BYUtv which reaches over 55 million people worldwide. While their normal show lineups are intended to reach folks who consider C-SPAN violent and HSN too thrilling, they do rebroadcast football and basketball games, and will be doing more of that in coming years after BYU signed an eight-year TV deal with ESPN last fall. Under this contract, BYUtv even has the rights to one live football broadcast per year...(why couldn't ESPN have struck a deal with BYU basketball before this year, now that would have been good TV!!).

A few more notables from this deal. Texas will still receive the $15 million it brings in from Big 12 broadcast revenue which may go to fund things like this. Also, The most successful team at the university, Longhorn baseball, is not factored into these broadcasting rights. I get it, college baseball has a fraction of the draw that football or basketball does, but after getting to the College World Series four times in nine years, and winning it twice, can't they get a few national broadcasts?

Some obvious and not so obvious affects that the Longhorn network could have...

  • Not that they ever needed it, but this should be an unparalleled boost for Texas coaches in recruiting, absolutely no excuse for a season like 2010 for Mack Brown, or for just one Final Four appearance for Rick Barnes.
  • Texas high school players may get targeted from schools around the country after playing on UT TV broadcasts, or they'll just stay in-state like the do already.
  • "Hook 'em Horns" may soon drive other fight songs/hand signs/chants "War Eagle"/"We Are..."/"Roll 'Tide"/"Gig 'Em" to the brink of extinction.
  • Texas inches one step closer to seceding from the Union, and becoming it's own nation-state.
  • Additional revenue could help alum Roger Clemens raise the legal support needed to skirt federal prison.

Now, the question everyone is asking...