Who's to blame for the Longhorn Network's failure to launch?

By Kris Hughes


Over the course of the day today, there has been plenty of discussion as to who should shoulder the blame for the abject failure of ESPN’s Longhorn Network to provide the game between the Texas Longhorns and Rice Owls, as promised.

ESPN, IMG, and the University of Texas were only able to secure one Central Texas cable carrier to carry the LHN, Grande Communications, which serves a miniscule portion of households in Austin and surrounding areas.

A deal was also reached with Verizon’s FiOS network to show the game in areas like the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex. Verizon is also not available in the Austin area so this deal made no difference to Texas fans who wished to watch this evening’s game with the Rice Owls.

Some today have placed blame on ESPN, saying that it was their responsibility to secure carriers and that their greed in wanting to secure a price per subscriber– and not compromising on that desire– should make them the scapegoat.

Others have blamed the predominant cable carriers in the Austin area, including Time Warner and AT&T Uverse, who were not able to get deals done with ESPN when Verizon and Grande were. After all, if they wanted to “take care of their customers” they would be willing to absorb the cost of a highly desired network.

The Texas athletic administration– most notably Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds — has also been the target of plenty of vitriol as well from Texas students, and more importantly, alumni. Many believe that Texas runs too much like a business, caring only about how to extend their “brand”, make more money, and increase the athletic department’s bottom line.

Well, guess what?

Everyone is to blame.

Here’s how:

1. ESPN is a corporate monster who will ALWAYS get what they want.

ESPN saw a potential goldmine when they approached the University of Texas about the creation of the LHN, and nothing is going to stand in the way of the profitability they desire.

It’s hardly surprising that ESPN is posturing like they are the best thing to happen to Texas sports since sliced bread. This is their general attitude– and for good reason. ESPN will win a battle of attrition, if that battle is the outcome of contentious negotiations.

After all, they have the resources to do so.

ESPN will be successful at the negotiating table and their bottom line profit will reach they levels they desire. This is how their business runs without exception.

If some casualties occur in the process, then so be it.

2. Texas knew who they were getting into bed with when they signed on the dotted line.

One of the world’s most well-known institutions– it would seem– should maintain autonomy over its business operations at all times. By giving ESPN a 24-hour all-access pass to the Forty Acres, Texas willingly sacrificed that autonomy.

Because of this, even if DeLoss Dodds and the athletic department voiced concerns about the fact that this evening’s game will not be seen by the very fans the LHN network was created to “serve” the volume of their voices was no louder than a whisper.

Greed is a dangerous thing, and an athletic department that is well-understood to operate as a business concern, first and foremost, may have made one of its poorest business decisions yet.

3. Time Warner and AT&T refused to swallow some pride in the name of customer service.

Austin, in large part, is about the University of Texas. Unless upper management for the Central Texas branches of Time Warner and AT&T live under a rock together, they understand this as a basic fact of life.

The fact that Verizon– and it’s shrimpy cousin, Grande– were able to get deals done with ESPN and Time Warner and AT&T were not, leads one to believe that they just did not make enough effort.

Sure, if Time Warner and AT&T made a deal with ESPN that forced them to pass on the costs to their customers it may not be the ideal situation, but the benefit of providing the LHN to a new group of subscribers surely would have been worth the cost.

As it stands, both networks are the target of derision for people everywhere and look like the evil corporations which they so often prove to be when given the opportunity.

So, when you’re listening to tonight’s game on radio, just remember who’s to blame.

Everyone involved.

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