ESPN has announced that the LHN staple nightly news show Longhorn Extra will be canceled. This comes on the heels of the cancellation of Texas All-Access, which was the most consistently compelling show on the network.
The cost cutting measures makes perfect sense as ESPN seeks to minimize production and studio costs, but it doesn't speak well to ESPN's financial commitment to the LHN as it contends with a larger environment of cord-cutting consumers. The LHN was set up as a loss leader to keep Texas from upending the conference landscape and creating a bidding war and now that we're properly hostaged, ESPN is wisely seeking to minimize their losses.
Texas languishing in its dominant sport is a compelling factor, but the larger macro issue underpinning it all is that the Longhorns made a long term commitment to the nation's least telegenic, least resourced major conference, where the Longhorns provide all of the demographics and guaranteed payouts that exceed most Big 12 schools real market value (not looking at you Oklahoma and Kansas) and yet, impressively, somehow manage to still reap all of the conference resentment.
As I've counseled many times, if the Horns are going to be viewed as gluttonous mercenaries while doing the CFB version of charity work (though more out of laziness than kindness), Texas should embrace a heel turn and start setting things on fire.
The hard truth is that prior Texas leadership couldn't be bothered to craft a vision for the future and made a 20 year commitment to a poison pill for television rights; essentially choosing to be bought off and linger in a conference backwater rather than seek their true value in a market that inordinately rewards live entertainment. Fulfilling that vision would have required work and initiative. And more work isn't something anyone in the AD was very much interested in doing back in 2011. Nor is it opportune now, with the department in caretaker mode.
That payoff? An annual revenue sum that's around 10% of total athletic department earnings. My going rate for albatross adoption is three times that. But that's me.
We might want to have a 2nd year MBA at the McCombs school review our next conference alignment decision. A 2.5 GPA and a willingness to work a 40 hour week should suffice.