[Update 11:15 a.m. 8/31/12: Crack poster Patrick Leahy provided link to official ESPN announcement. This is a firm rollout BONizens. -TXStampede]
[Update 10:25 a.m. 8/31/12: News update on LHN availability on U-Verse. ABC affiliate KVUE reached out to AT&T U-Verse this morning. A spokesperson there told them, "As of now, there is no official news on Longhorn Network in U-verse. We are providing the network to a few of our members on a trial basis. Once there is an official announcement all our U-verse members will be notified." Still, it has been reported on other sites by U-Verse customer that the "test" is as far away as Nashville, TN. Anyway you slice it, it is good movement for LHN distribution. -TXStampede]
[Update 8/31/12: Sometime in the overnight time slot, AT&T U-Verse flipped the switch to carry the Longhorn Network. This is a huge win for The University of Texas Administration as tempers, sparks, and anxiety was bearing down on the LHN parties in lead up to tomorrow's opening 2012 game against Wyoming broadcast on LHN exclusively. Thanks to Scipio Tex for breaking the news last night, and to Peter for running down the story, as many a Longhorn fan in the U-Verse service area went to bed last night with visions of All Access, Game Plan with Mack Brown, and Longhorn Extra on "CFB-mas Eve" (h/t 54b). Needless to say it will be an exciting day in our neck of the woods with tens of thousands of U-Verse subscriber Longhorn Fans walking on air. -TXStampede]
With less than 48 hours until kickoff of the 2012 season, the Longhorn Network appears to be close to signing its first breakthrough deal with a widely available carrier. Barking Carnival's Paul Wadlington is reporting that a deal betwen the Longhorn Network and AT&T uVerse has been reached that should allow the cable carrier to begin carrying the channel in time for Saturday evening's football game against Wyoming.
Although I haven't independently veriified that a deal has been reached, Paul isn't one who's interested in chasing scoops (and will sit on information unless he feels it's rock solid), and after chatting with him on the phone, his report meshes with the vague information I'd been hearing about some sort of official announcement late tomorrow afternoon or early evening. What I heard about an announcement is still just unconfirmed speculation, but Paul's report now provides by far the best, most solid news to date that this deal with AT&T uVerse is done or very close to it.
Also of note, Paul asks in his post at Barking Carnival about the potential impact on other cable carriers, and speculates the most likely would be mid-size satellite providers like Dish Network and DirecTV. [Edit: An earlier version of this post contained a note about a potential partnership between uVerse and DirecTV, which has since been removed upon realizing that mine was simply a mistaken conclusion resulting from my recent experience with the most circuitous, confusing cable services installation project ever, in which I ordered cable through uVerse, but wound up with DirecTV. Don't ask. I'm pretty grumpy about it about now.]
What does this mean for Texas fans? Well, hold your horses on calling uVerse. I just moved on Tuesday, leaving a house serviced by Grande (and thus, Longhorn Network) and moving into one just outside Grande's service area, prompting me to switch to AT&T uVerse. Since I have a uVerse account with AT&T, I went ahead and phoned them at about 9:00 pm CT on Thursday evening, and I can assure you that the call center is not yet aware of any change to their standard response: "We don't carry the LHN, and aren't aware of any plans to do so." That won't change until after the deal is finalized, and speaking from experience here, there will be lots of wrangling between transactional lawyers before it is. It seems prudent to expect that if the deal gets executed in time for kickoff against Wyoming, it won't be with much time to spare, and it seems as likely as not that most fans would only get to the chance to add the channel in time for next week's contest versus New Mexico.
Regardless of how the details play out in terms of timing, if a deal with AT&T uVerse is in fact signed just prior to or early into this season, it will represent the Longhorn Network's first major victory, providing a substantial portion of the fan base with the opportunity to add the channel. Such a deal would also make the LHN much more widely available to bars and restaurants, further expanding its reach and availability, easing the difficulty for Longhorns fans to watch the football games televised on the channel, and dramatically easing the hostility among fans towards the channel.
Early in August I went out on a limb and predicted that there would be at least one breakthrough deal just before 2012 season kickoff, and while we now must wait for confirmation of a finalized deal, Paul's report at Barking Carnival provides the best reason yet to believe that the worst of the LHN impasse is very nearly over.
And as someone who's had the Longhorn Network for the past year, let me assure those of you who have been forced to wait: it's worth it. Absolutely worth it.