ESPN completes purchase of Longhorns with $300 million deal

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Back in November, the Texas Board of Regents gave UT president William Powers the authority to pursue the creation of the Longhorn Network.

That months-long flirtation reached its climax Wednesday, and presumably there will be many a UT official puffing on a Marlboro in the consummation’s money-green afterglow.

First reported by the Sports Business Daily Tuesday, and later confirmed by the Austin American-Statesman, Texas has reached an agreement with ESPN on a 20-year, $300 million deal that will create a 24-hour television channel devoted to all things Texas Longhorns.

As the agreement was negotiated by IMG College, the Longhorns’ multimedia rights holder, UT will actually realize annual compensation of roughly $12.5 a year from the ESPN deal after IMG takes their cut.  The first years, however, UT will be forced to “get by” on “just” $10 million a year.  Combined with the Big 12-ish’s network deals — UT’s share is not impacted by the new side deal with ESPN — UT stands to rake in at least $30 million a year just from those two deals.

“We see this as a very important part of sort of continuing to reinvent the models through which we do business,” Powers said. “This is reflective of being much more creative in how public higher education positions itself as we go forward, even aside from the athletics.”

Unbelievably, ESPN is paying $15 million a year — plus committing $400 million in production value according to the SBD — and will only televise one, maybe two football games a year.  Other programming on the Longhorn Network (ESPNUT?) will include, the American-Statesman writes, a larger but unspecified number of men’s basketball games and a variety of other men’s and women’s sports, including volleyball and swimming.  Then there’s this beauty:

Non-athletic fare is likely to run for about three hours a day and include musical performances, plays, and documentaries by faculty members and students, Powers said. Details are yet to be worked out.

“This will be high-level, entertaining cultural, music, scientific, Discovery Channel, History Channel kind of stuff,” Powers said. “And we have a team put together working on it, and that will be done in collaboration with ESPN.”

What, no “Austin City Limits” or “Walker, Texas Ranger” reruns?

The new network is scheduled to officially launch this coming fall.  As far as distribution is concerned, it’s expected to appear on basic cable platforms in Texas, Oklahoma and possibly parts of Louisiana, and in premium packages throughout the rest of the country.