The long, and short, of The Longhorn Network launch


Yippee ki yay: The official launch of the 24/7, ESPN-owned, somewhat controversial Longhorn Network powers up from the University of Texas’ Austin campus quad today at 4 p.m.

We’re just not sure who, if anyone, will bear witness to the first channel devoted to a single school.

Carriage deals have not been announced. Only a few small, in-state distributors supposedly have it. Verizon FIOS presumably will come on board, but not until Sept. 1. DirecTV and Time Warner, the two biggest media barons, aren’t close to hooking horns yet.

Whatever ESPN stands to gain by its 20-year deal that pays the university $300 million remains to be seen – assuming someone sees it before the Longhorns open the season Sept. 3 against Rice on TLN.

“We have confidence someone will see us (on the first day),” said Stephanie Druley, the Longhorn Network’s VP of programming. “It’s inevitable we’re going to be on TV.”

A live broadcast of ESPN “College GameDay” starts TLN with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Erin Andrews as the eye candy. Don’t look away from Samantha Steele, Kevin Dunn and Lowell Galindo, either. They’re TLN signature talent pool.

The first live event arrives at 6 p.m. — Pepperdine faces the No. 4-ranked Texas women’s volleyball team in the Burnt Orange Classic from the campus gym (called by Carter Blackburn and Heather Cox). Then, on Sunday at 11 a.m., Cal State Northridge’s womens soccer team gets some TV time facing Texas.

The official website of the network – — is already begging you to bang our your cable or dish system to bring it on. Subscriber fees are again a sticking point.

Otherwise, most of the commotion surrounding this channel that the Big 12 allowed Texas to launch so that it wouldn’t jump to the now-Pac-12 are the ramifications of plans to carry high school football games. Many perceive that as somehow giving Texas a special recruiting advantage.

The NCAA, calling a rare “TV summit” at its headquarters in Indianapolis earlier this week, has tabled that motion until it can figure out how to level the playing field.

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