It may not quite be the eleventh hour, but it certainly felt like that Friday afternoon in Austin with no cable providers signed on to distribute the Longhorn Network with the opening game against Rice on Saturday evening rapidly approaching. That all changed with the announcement from ESPN that Grande Communications will carry the Longhorn Network in time for the opener.
While Grande is hardly a distributor on par with Time Warner Cable, the big kid on the block in Texas, it does have a reasonable share of the market in Austin, San Marcos, San Antonio, Midland/Odessa, Waco, Corpus Christi and Dallas. Grande joins Verizon and a handful of other small distributors as carriers of the network and could pressure Time Warner Cable to reach a deal with ESPN or lose Longhorn customers.
The big news here is Texas fans in the Austin area will have access to the game, taking some pressure off of ESPN for the hard-line negotiation tactics adopted by the sports entertainment giant that have begun to frustrate fans wanting at least an opportunity to see the game. So, Horn fans, get on the horn to your friends with Grande. And breathe a big sigh of relief.