The Austin American Statesman has obtained a copy of the licensing agreement between UT, its media rights-holder IMG College, and ESPN and it reveals a few more interesting details in the pact.
As already reported, the 24-hour network is expected to launch this August. ESPN is the equity stakeholder in the network and will pay UT a total of $300 million over 20 years. Here are some of the highlights from the agreement:
*ESPN will have $13 million in start-up costs and then have production costs of $15 million in the first year. They also expect their overhead to begin at $11 million and increase annually at a rate of 4%.
*ESPN is in charge of hiring the on-air talent, but Texas has veto power. Texas can drop the hammer on any talent that they perceived to have injured the brand. The contract states,
"in the event that UT reasonably determines that any on-air talent does not reflect the quality and reputation desired by UT for the Network based on inappropriate statements made or actions taken by such talent and so notifies ESPN, ESPN will cause such talent to be promptly replaced (and will in any event no longer allow them on air following such notice)."
ESPN told the Statesman that this was unusual but added that it wasn't about critical comments made concerning the program but, "it's more about potential situations where a commentator makes completely inappropriate comments or gets involved in inappropriate actions."
Whatever that may be.
*UT (specifically IMG College) will help ESPN get the rights to University Interscholastic League championship contests on the network and the digital channel that will also be created. Texas is the only state where a University is in charge of a state high school athletic association. UIL championship events in football and basketball are currently under contract to Fox Sports.
*ESPN has yet to make a distribution deal with any cable or or satellite providers to carry the new network. It is expected that the Longhorn Network will have a staff of 75 employees.