We have already talked here on BC about Texas seriously considering putting together its own sports channel 24/7.
Apparently, the most important step in the process is well underway. Business Week says UT and its corporate partner, IMG College, are looking for distributors for the Longhorn Sports Channel and it may be as soon as next school year.
This is the tricky part of putting the network together. UT is trying to do something no other program has done, which is go out on its own and create a sports channel for pay cable. Texas has to convince cable and satellite operators that the channel will have enough original programming to justify paying UT on a per subscriber basis. The Big 10 Network found rough going when they started up trying to get Time Warner and other cable operators to pay the fee. Supposedly the Big 10 wanted $1 per subscriber. They settled for less, but got the channel on basic cable in the Big 10 markets, and on the premium digital level out of markets.
Apparently Texas is looking to be put on the premium level. Of course the carriers want to know what, if any of the games in the most popular sports -- football and basketball -- would be available.
Texas might be willing to buy back the rights to some of the football and basketball games that are now on the Fox regional network. Perhaps Fox might take an equity share in the network. So instead of the Baylor and Kansas games being on Fox regional, they could be on the Longhorn Sports Network.
Obviously the rest of the Big 12 will be watching how this unfolds closely. Just as obvious will be that it will create tension between Texas and the other teams in the league because it will be increasing the Longhorns revenue stream while cutting into the inventory that the league can use to sell its own packages.
It's another way that Texas is being proactive in protecting its brand, while also making it clear that sustaining the Big 12 in its present form will be harder in the future.