Monday, August 8, 2011

Mass hysteria over The Longhorn Network continues unabated.

With the premiere Texas' Longhorn Network looming ever so closely, the almost insane hysteria from critics of the enterprise seems to be rising. The latest bone of contention is regarding the contract between the University of Texas and ESPN setting up the network.

The Texas A&M blog The Midnight Yell obtained a copy of the contract via an Open Records Request. If you really want to get into all the brain-melting legalese, you can read  here in all of it's mind-numbing glory at your leisure.  The contract itself is really no big deal. But leave it to an Aggie to get all bent out of shape over it. Take for example  language in the contract regarding the airing of  one or more Longhorn football games a year.

"Remember a few weeks back when it was made known that the Longhorn Network planned to air a Big XII football game this coming season (2011) and the fuss from media and other conference members that came with that?  Well, it was planned all along.  In the signed agreement, the Longhorn Network HAS to show 1 live football game a year (This year it will be the first home game of the year against Rice to fill the requirement) but BOTH the University of Texas and ESPN have a "mutual desire" to  show NO LESS THAN 2 live football games a year on the Longhorn Network.   

So where does the network and ESPN stop at?  Four live Texas Longhorn football games?  The entire home schedule?  And if the network does in fact air that many live football games, how does this affect the overall value of the 1st and 2nd tier media rights of the conference as a whole?  Less money for the entire conference on the table when 1st tier rights become available in 2015-2016?  I guess this also makes void Chip Brown and the Longhorn's spin that "Texas had no idea what ESPN was doing, it was their fault".  It's not ESPN alone when there is a "mutual desire" is it?

Can you see what's happening here? This an obvious beginning of a plan to take over the world. Not just the world of college football, or college sports, but the whole flaming world! Quick, call Alex Jones.

Of course, the sports blogosphere's preeminent lawyer/enfant terrible Clay Travis had to step in with a few comments of his own to add as fuel to the (bon)fire.

"...Reading through the agreement confirms the worst fears of the remaining Big 12 members: Texas has little to no interest in remaining committed to the Big 12 long term. In fact, the contract is riddled with references to Texas leaving the conference and becoming an independent."

Travis goes on the question why certain information in the contract has been redacted.

"There are a great deal of details included in here. Probably a lot of details that neither ESPN nor Texas really wants to be made public. But what sections are redacted and why? If we've got ESPN's entire business plan for the network -- don't you think Fox and Comcast love to know the cost structure of their competitors? -- what is so controversial that it can't be made public?

I'd be nervous about that if I was another Big 12 school. Really nervous."

It's obvious what is going on here. Texas is planning to control the world and ship all connected with other Big XII schools to it's "reeducation camps" where they'll either be converted to Longhorn fans, or turned into Soylent Green.

Leave it to The "SportsBizMiss," Kristi Dosh to throw some cold water on the tinfoil hat party.

"Back to the unfounded fear that the Longhorn Network would end up with four live games or “the entire home schedule.” Texas has contracted away its third tier rights (i.e., games that aren’t chosen by ESPN as the first-tier rights holder or FOX as the second-tier rights holder). Yes, there’s some room for negotiation between ESPN and FOX, but FOX isn’t going to just give away all its rights to Texas games when it’s paying $1.17 billion for second-tier rights. Does it mean ESPN will pay less for the Big 12′s first-tier rights when the current contract with the conference is up? Of course not. The last thing ESPN wants is for FOX or NBC/Comcast or anyone else to come in and control first-tier rights in the conference."

The theory that The Longhorn Network is going to somehow make Texas top dog in college football has a whole lot of flaws. For one, it fails to take into consideration that even with all of these "advantages" Texas might have, it still might underferform on the football field. Look at Notre Dame and its deal wit NBC. It really hasn't helped the Irish in the past few years, has it?

And the chance that all of Texas' games will be are on the Longhorn Network are (at least for the foreseeable future) slim to none. The marquee match-ups are going to pretty much stay where they are on either ESPN or FOX. It doesn't benefit Texas much to have the games on an outlet that's still unavailable to a majority of the country.

As I discussed last week, The Longhorn Network is more hype than a serious threat to college sports.

(via The Midnight Yell, Outkick the Coverage, The Business of College Sports)

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