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Longhorn Network Gets Two Live Football Games in 2011

The Texas/ESPN partnership is already paying dividends for the Longhorn Network. ESPN announced today that the fledgling network will carry two UT football games live.

The Longhorn Network, ESPN’s 20-year, $300 million partnership with Texas and marketing partner IMG College, signs on Aug. 26. Texas opens the season on Sept. 3 with Rice.

Aside from the Rice Contest, the Longhorn Network will telecast a Big 12 Conference game live as well.

ESPN cut a deal with Fox Sports to give the UT Network an extra game. Fox owns the cable-satellite rights to Big 12 football. ESPN will take one of the games that Fox would have aired on its cable network this season and in turn will allow Fox to pick a Big 12 game in 2012 that might have appeared on ABC or ESPN and run it on its over-the-air network. If one had to guess, the best bet would be one of the Iowa State, Kansas, or Kansas State games will make its way to the Longhorn Network.

ESPN is currently in negotiations with distributors and cable operators, and reportedly is asking for 40 cents a subscriber in the Dominant Marketing Area of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico. They are also asking that the Longhorn Network be on the basic expanded cable tier in those states. The asking price higher than most channels, but relatively low for sports channels.

The Big 10 Network is believed to be getting 70 cents per subscriber per month in its home markets.

Talks are ongoing and these kind of distribution pacts mirror professional sports CBA talks -- they usually go right down to the wire. Time Warner Cable, Verizon and Comcast are the major carriers and all are expected to be on board by the Sept. 3 kickoff. Time Warner is the key player in the negotiations as they have 2 million subscribers, over 25% of the cable and satellite homes in Texas.

ESPN is also working on getting the Longhorn Network distributed throughout the nation. It is expected to be bundled with other channels such as ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line and ESPN Buzzer Beater. That means outside of the Southwest, the Longhorn Network would be on a sports tier as part of a premium programming package that will require subscribers to pay extra.

So don't panic Longhorn fans if your local cable distibutor doesn't show the Longhorn Netowork on its channel list just yet.

Texas has the best closer in the business working on it.