The SEC might have a 10-figure deal with CBS and ESPN; and Notre Dame might have that sweetheart contract with NBC, but the University of Texas has achieved a new benchmark in college sports with the creation of its own Longhorn Network.
It's the result of a $300 million, 20-year deal between ESPN, the University of Texas and IMG College, UT's multimedia rights holder. The dedicated network places the Longhorns in an elite stratosphere alongside professional sports franchises like the New York Yankees, whose YES network generated $417 million for the baseball team in 2009.
Longhorn Network will debut in the fall and feature live sports, shoulder programming and three hours a day of non-athletic-related content by and about the University of Texas (think documentaries, musical performances and theater). UT's most successful sports — football, men's basketball and women's volleyball — are all guaranteed a minimum level of coverage, including at least two football games.
Most of the Longhorns' football games will remain on ABC and ESPN's national networks. As many as 10 men's basketball games could be shown on the Longhorn Network every season.
The deal will net UT at least $247.5 million from ESPN over the next two decades (the remaining $52.5 million goes to IMG) with the potential for more revenue based on ratings and potential profits. The Longhorns will also receive an additional $14 to $15 million per year from the Big 12.
Texas has long coveted its own TV network. It agreed to stay in the Big 12 in mid June, only after Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe agreed to allow UT to create its own network. Big 12 officials had resisted the idea of allowing Texas to have its own TV network for years and the UT needed conference approval to get a network.
Specific plans with ESPN have been in the works since at least October.
“We see this as a very important part of sort of continuing to reinvent the models through which we do business,” University of Texas president William Powers Jr. told the Austin-American Statesman. “This is reflective of being much more creative in how public higher education positions itself as we go forward, even aside from the athletics."
Powers also said half of the guaranteed income for the first five years is earmarked for academics.
Distribution arrangements with cable and satellite providers have not been released, and the deal does not negate existing contracts with ESPN-ABC and Fox for Big 12 Conference sports.