Time Warner Interested in Purchasing the Longhorn Network from ESPN?

By Kris Hughes

Over the course of time, we’ve written plenty on ESPN‘s Texas Longhorns-focused 24-hour network, the Longhorn Network, which we not-so-affectionately have dubbed the FailHorn Network, due to the media giant’s inability to get wide-scale distribution for it’s programming from major cable carriers.

ESPN is reportedly growing more frustrated with the resistance they have received from cable companies not only in Central Texas, but around the country, and it has been rumored another media giant, Time Warner, is interested in acquiring the network from ESPN– or, at a minimum, partnering with them to share some of the cost burden.

ESPN and the University of Texas are tied into a 20-year, $300 million rights deal, which pays Texas $15 million a year in broadcasting rights. Given the relatively small market share which ESPN has been able to acquire– the network is only shown on a few regional CenTex carriers like Grande Communications, and to some Verizon customers outside of the Austin-area– the venture has been far from profitable for one of the two parties involved.

Time Warner and ESPN have not confirmed any negotiations have taken place between them in regards to the Longhorn Network, but given Time Warner’s aggressive new stance towards sports media with the coming addition of several new regional networks, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

If the new business model at Time Warner is to capitalize on regional coverage, adding even a piece of the Longhorn Network, could be a boon, because the Longhorns are far from a regional team. With a national fan and alumni base, Time Warner could get plenty of new sets of eyeballs, and that’s what the broadcasting game is all about.

Expect there to be plenty of noise about this in coming months as ESPN continues to fail to deliver on the promise of a wide broadcasting base, Texas fans get louder about wanting access to their team, and important folks get increasingly anxious around the Forty Acres.

Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.

Kris is also the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.

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