I don't know the answer to this question but I think it is important to pose it. I watch the LHN occasionally and I have been on it once, but I still haven't formulated a fixed opinion, so I thought I would just open it up for conversation.
Unlike a majority of you, I actually get the Longhorn Network. The benefit is minimal. I am a student, so I can go to the football games that LHN airs, and I have no desire to watch middle of the week baseball or basketball games against small in state schools. Especially when we suck at sports.
Does the success of the athletic department directly correlate to the success of the network? The obvious answer would be yes but that doesn't make the content any better. It reminds me of a World War Two German Propaganda machine, where they aren't actually allowed to report the news but are encouraged to spoon feed you bullshit until you slowly accept it for reality. There is no alternative view. It's preaching to the converted. Just watch this interview where Rick Barnes tries to tell us that the program is as strong as ever.
Coddling these coaches with softball questions doesn't do it for me, so what kind of people is LHN targeting? Is there a demographic of people who only like the Longhorns, understand very little about sports, but can sit through an hour of golf highlights and subject themselves to interviews where coaches talk about nothing? Is Longhorn Network built around the Seinfeld model? I don't know. I do know that very few people get it, and of those people, very few people watch it.
It is also a really easy target for jokes. And the jokes are pretty hilarious, too. Look at this tweet from cuppycup, the genius GIF creator from Good Bull Hunting.
@longhornnetwork Shipleys reminds me of donuts and donuts remind me of LHN viewership.— cuppycup (@cuppycup) May 23, 2013
It's not like these jokes aren't warranted. I will never stand up for my school when it is the butt of an LHN joke. It doesn't really help with recruiting, either. In theory, it should, but why would recruits want to come to Texas when we reallocate national televised content into a stream that, at best, a few hundred will see.
The talent is there. I was on a segment after the miracle comeback against OU in basketball. They asked students who left the game early to come in and be ridiculed. I wasn't actually at the game, but responded anyway, because I wanted to see the studio. What I first realized is that there is a real disconnect between the network and the university. They called and offered to have an intern to pick me up, but when I told them I was at Jester, neither the producer nor the intern knew what it was or how to get there. When I eventually walked all the way to the studio (located off of Red River by St. Davids Medical Center and I-35), I met the on air talent. They were unbelievably nice and friendly. Kevin Dunn was the guy I talked to the most. His storied television history included a spot on the reality show "The Real World" in the late 90's and a short stop on the Onion's sports program "The Dome." Kaylee Hartung was the other anchor I met. She is a former CBS correspondent who worked very closely with Bob Scheiffer before landing her first anchoring job with LHN. They were all very talented, but their content is forced and because of that it will peak at limited success.
What appeals to me about the Longhorn Network is the material they produce about the school. For example, this awesome piece on the Longhorn Rodeo team.
Stories like this are both interesting and informative. They create a connection between the Network and the University. I don't get the same feeling watching the Longhorn Extra or the obnoxious "you write the questions you want to answer" interviews with the men's big three coaches.
So does the Longhorn Network suck? I don't know. I don't like it, but maybe it will get better. Probably not. But maybe.