Longhorn Network: Is Time Warner Interested In Buying The Network?

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 3: University of Texas fans cheer on the Longhorns as they play the Rice Owls on September 3, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. This was the debut game for the new Longhorn Network, a partnership between the University of Texas at Austin and ESPN. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Nearly a year into the existence of the Longhorn Network, distribution is still progressing at a glacial pace, with no deals imminent from any of the major providers. It's a fact that has made the fledgling network an easy target for ridicule for opposing fanbases with little sense of perspective on how distribution for such networks go down, with the Big 10 Network and the NFL Network both examples of how it can take some time to reach deals with providers.

In any case, Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls has some potential news from an anonymous source:

Texas is no closer to reaching an agreement with Time Warner Cable to carry the Longhorn Network, Time Warner's Central Texas communications manager, Ryan Kelly, tells me, as the ESPN-operated venture nears its one-year anniversary in August.

But an industry source told me Time Warner is interested in trying to buy the Longhorn Network or at least partner with ESPN on the property, for which ESPN is shelling out $300 million over 20 years. Time Warner representatives at the corporate office have not returned phone calls for several weeks, and the cable provider won't even disclose the last time it negotiated with ESPN. ESPN has failed to reach any distribution agreements with major cable providers or satellite companies.

As one of the major national providers -- and one that has already reached an impasse with ESPN, with Time Warner saying there are no current plans to carry the network -- it might behoove ESPN to explore the possibilities here in an effort get to make LHN available to the masses in advance of the 2012 football season.

Time Warner has already purchased several regional networks recently and could be looking to expands its reach in that market. The provider may be trying to buy low here, so the situation may be worth monitoring simply as a look into whether or not ESPN is willing to make some concession to come to agreements with distributors. So far the Worldwide Leader has not been willing to do so, but pressure is continuing to mount.

No doubt Texas fans frustrated with the lack of access to the Longhorn Network would be thrilled to finally have a chance to watch it.

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