BEVO BEAT

Questions, few answers so far about Dish-Longhorn Network deal

Posted March 4th, 2014

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Monday’s announcement that Longhorn Network will be available on Dish Network has brought about more questions than answers. To that end, here are some tidbits we know so far about the LHN-Dish deal:

Q: When will Longhorn Network debut on Dish?

A: ESPN officials couldn’t pinpoint a specific date on Tuesday, but they said it would be later this summer. It could coincide with the debut of the SEC Network, which is scheduled to go live in August.

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Q: Will LHN be part of a premium-tier sports package?

A: Again, ESPN officials weren’t completely sure at this point, so they felt it was best not to speculate.

Q: Does the Dish Network deal legitimize LHN?

A: Absolutely. It’s one thing to be picked up by Grande Communications, and it was a huge boost to get on Time Warner Cable. But landing on the nation’s second-largest satellite distributor is a game-changer for ESPN.

“Dish obviously has both scale and scope here, so it changes the game for us in a big way,” ESPN senior vice president Justin Connolly said. “I think it reinforces this idea a collection of distributors who have all decided to carry the Longhorn Network.”

Q: When will Longhorn Network get on DirecTV?

A: This is far and away the No. 1 question generated by the Dish news. Right now, it’s unclear. Two DirecTV communications officials did not return messages left by the American-Statesman on Tuesday. But it’s doubtful they would have much to say anyway. These negotiations are usually played close to the vest since both sides are trying to negotiate better fees for themselves.

“I don’t know exactly how DirecTV feels about us, but if nothing else, it certainly sends a sign that there’s buy-in with the second-largest satellite, third-largest provider nationally, for these networks,” Connolly said. “I can’t help but think it sends a pretty clear signal to DirecTV that there’s opportunity here.”

Q: What about Comcast?

A: There’s no telling how or when LHN will be available on Comcast cable systems, especially once news broke of the Comcast merger with Time Warner.

Q: Will Charlie Strong give LHN the same access Mack Brown did?

A: At this point, that’s an unknown. One of the most fascinating shows on LHN is Texas All-Access, which is somewhat like Hard Knocks. It’s a complete behind-the-scenes look at the Texas program on a weekly basis. Will Strong let ESPN’s cameras have the same access? Right now, even ESPN people can’t say for sure.

Two ESPN sources said the network has only just begun having conversations with Strong and the athletic department about what sort of access the network will get.

“We’re just scratching the surface with the coaching change and what it will mean with Longhorn (Network),” Connolly said. “We like to do it with a collaborative spirit, so there’s as much buy in as possible.”

Q: What will generate more excitement — Longhorn Network or the upcoming SEC Network?

A: I have yet to meet anyone who isn’t excited about the upcoming SEC Network. Of course, anything with those three magic letters generates excitement these days. “I think there’s tremendous excitement,” Connolly said.

I mean, who isn’t ready for Nick Saban All-Access?

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