ESPN, going deep into the heart of the Lone Star State, will kick off a dedicated University of Texas network next September.
The 24-hour, still unnamed service, will be located in Austin, the result of a 20-year agreement with the University of Texas, the sports programmer and multimedia rights-holder IMG College, which negotiated the deal for the school.
The new network will be made available to cable, satellite and telecommunications distributors within state, regional and national markets.
In an interview, Burke Magnus, ESPN's senior vice president of college sports, said he believes the network will have significant appeal, not only within the state boundaries, but beyond, and that there would be different pricing structures based on location. He said ESPN had preliminary discussions with potential affiliates and that official talks would commence shortly.
Time Warner Cable is the primary cable operator in Dallas, San Antonio, Waco and Austin, including providing service on campus. Comcast is the top cable distributor in the Houston DMA.
The Texas channel will offer a variety of content, highlighted by more than 200 exclusive events annually from numerous sports, original series and studio shows, historical programming and academic and cultural happenings.
Additionally, ESPN said there will be an online broadband companion to the TV network that will present extensive content, particularly events not featured on the linear TV network due to simultaneous events or other overlapping programming.
Sports Business Journal estimates the value of the deal at some $300 million, with the programmer committing some $400 million in production over the life of the pact.
IMG College, the multimedia rights partner of UT Athletics since 1998, asked permission from the university's athletics department and men's athletics director DeLoss Dodds to pursue negotiations for a UT-based television network partner in fall 2007.
The parties held a press conference in Austin this afternoon to announce the network, which will feature at least one exclusive Longhorns football game per season, plus encores of UT's game on other networks. In addition, the network will also showcase the annual practice scrimmage during the Texas Spring Football Jamboree.
On the hardwood, the network will air a minimum of eight exclusive men's games each season, plus encore presentations of Texas games originating on other networks. Distaff games (every one available) and encore telecasts are also on tap.
As for Olympic sports, there will be exclusive games (every one available) and encore presentations of matchups in volleyball, soccer, baseball, softball, tennis, cross country, track and field, swimming and diving, golf and rowing.
The network will also have on-campus studio presence in Austin, surrounding games, daily news vehicles and coaches shows, plus season preview and review fare. Documentaries, biographies and other student-athlete features are also planned, as is coverage of pep rallies, tailgating and awards presentations.
The network will also aspire to present other slices of university life with news updates, commencement activities, lectures and visiting speakers, plus coverage of of arts, music and theater events on campus and in the Austin environs.