Mack Brown announced on Sunday that Texas' first two football games of the season against Wyoming and New Mexico will be broadcast on the Longhorn Network. Today's news is sure to upset many UT football fans, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and relay my much more optimistic take.
Here's my prediction for you: there will be a breakthrough sometime this August with one major cable carrier, and by season kickoff or early September most Texas fans will be able to subscribe to the Longhorn Network.
The bottom line here is that once the football games come and go, this whole dance starts again and there isn't any pressure on the carriers to get this done until next summer, prior to the next football season. Texas and ESPN have now amplified that pressure for this season by placing the first two games on the Longhorn Network. The incentive for a cable carrier to be the first to strike a deal this August may never be higher, and if ESPN is willing to move the needle a little bit in order to reach a deal (and they, too, are heavily incentivized to get this done now, while the desire to subscribe will be strongest), then I predict we'll see a breakthrough prior to LHN Year 2 much like we saw prior to Big Ten Network Year 2.
You may recall that heading into the 2008 season, the Big Ten Network had yet to strike a deal with any of the major (non-satellite) carriers, but on August 23rd the BTN and Mediacom reached a deal, and after that the floodgates opened: Time Warner on August 25th, Charter and Brighthouse on the 26th, and Cox Communications on the 28th.
Will it happen that way for the Longhorn Network, as well? Maybe not, but ever since it's launched I've been pointing to this August as the month when the incentives to reach a deal would reach a peak, and that first big deal would be signed. And that's all it takes is one. After that, everyone else who wants to keep their Longhorn subscribers has to sign on, or kiss 'em good bye.
Today's announcement makes me think that I'm not the only one who thinks that now is the time. I expect negotiations to get real serious, real fast. And for most of you to have the Longhorn Network this season.
For everyone's sake, I hope that I'm right.