The Longhorn Network Launches Today, And Nobody Can Watch It

Tonight, at 6pm Austin time, the controversial Longhorn Network will go on the air. 24-hour coverage will start immediately, giving you the latest and most in-depth UT coverage available. And there's absolutely no way for you or anyone else to watch.

Go ahead, check your local cable provider. Nothing. That's because, despite months of hype, ESPN has had trouble signing contracts with cable operators. And they're scrambling: just yesterday, Verizon FIOS agreed to a deal, but that won't go into effect until September 1st. Time Warner Cable, which covers most of Austin and the proximate viewing area, is in negotiations, but nothing's close to done. Comcast has barely had talks with ESPN, and DirecTV hasn't shown interest.

The holdup can be traced to two things. First, ESPN wants a 40-cents-per-subscriber fee from cable operators across the South. That might be a bargain in Texas, but are there enough Longhorn fans in New Mexico or Louisiana to make it worth the cable companies' while to raise prices? Second, the debate over airing high school games has come late in the negotiating process, and the cable companies who thought they were getting that programming are lowering their offers.

ESPN has confirmed that the channel will not stream online, so there will be literally no way to watch the Longhorn Network. They will full programming running through the weekend and beyond, with highlights, previews and full studio shows, and unless ESPN's business folks pull some last-second magic, it will be a costly exercise in futility.