ESPN officials have cancelled the nightly “Longhorn Extra” news and information studio show on Longhorn Network and will start focusing primarily on live events, according to an ESPN spokeswoman.
Two in-house directors are likely to be reassigned, and the network will allow its contract with the Austin-based Earl Miller Productions to lapse this summer. However, it’s unclear how this move affects LHN’s on-air talent.
“We remain committed to providing quality content for Texas fans through 175 sporting events annually, weekly studio shows and academic programming on Longhorn Network,” ESPN spokeswoman Gracie Blackburn said.
This move comes after the network earlier canceled “Texas All Access,” which was a Hard Knocks-style show that gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at UT football. The All Access idea will remain integrated with other LHN-related programming, simply no longer be a stand-alone show, Blackburn said.
Longhorn Network will still air “Texas GameDay” and sport-specific shows featuring UT coaches. The Sept. 10 football game against UTEP and the Oct. 15 matchup against Iowa State are both scheduled to air on LHN this fall. The full Texas volleyball TV schedule has not been released, however the network usually airs a majority of home matches.
National media outlets have chronicled ESPN’s battle against the cord-cutting, as television viewing habits are changing. It’s unclear whether LHN’s moves are being made due to economics or sagging ratings.
Longhorn Network is not a Nielsen-rated station. ESPN does receive internal metrics to give network officials an idea how programming is doing. “Longhorn Extra” has long been a low-rated program, if it scored any ratings at all. However, the nightly 30-minute show was a terrific platform for UT’s Olympic sports, coaches and athletes who may not get attention otherwise. LHN still plans on airing a weekly magazine-styled show to feature those sports.
Pre- and post-game shows and live events have traditionally done well, ratings wise.
“We have a 20-year contract with Texas that we plan on honoring,” Blackburn said. “We have a long-term rights agreement with them. We’re fully committed to Longhorn Network for that 20-year relationship.”
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