With the service set to come out of the chute on Friday evening, ESPN has announced its first affiliation deal for the Longhorn Network.
Verizon FiOS, providing coverage both inside and outside the Lone Star State, will begin offering the University of Texas-centric service on Sept. 1.
The telco's national distribution agreement will enable FiOS TV Prime HD, Extreme HD and Ultimate HD subscribers in Texas to watch LHN on channels 79 (standard-definition) and 579 (high-definition). Elsewhere, FiOS TV Ultimate HD subscribers can watch Longhorn Network, which will present over 200 live events annually across 20 sports, studio shows, historical programming and academic and cultural happenings, on channel 320.
Additionally, the LonghornNetwork.com broadband companion to the TV network will offer extensive content, particularly live games not carried on the linear TV network due to scheduling conflicts.
In the near future, ESPN said Longhorn Network also will be available online, on tablets and on smartphones for fans with a Verizon FiOS TV plan, making UT athletics and other programming easily available anywhere, anytime.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but ESPN was said to be seeking a monthly subscriber fee of 40 cents within Texas and adjoining states.
Sources familiar with the negotiations say ESPN has also struck deals with smaller affiliates.
Whether any of those distributors will be on board for LHN's kickoff on Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. (CT) was unclear at presstime. With its main three-person anchor team on hand, LHN is scheduled to bow from the South Mall on the University of Texas campus with an assist from the Emmy Award-winning ESPN College GameDay crew -- Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard and Erin Andrews -- for previews of the Longhorns' upcoming football season and its home opener vs. Rice slated for Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. Texas coaches, players and former student-athletes are also expected to be involved the two-hour special.
The 24-hour service is the result of a 20-year, $300 million agreement with the university, the programmer and multimedia rights-holder IMG College, which negotiated the deal for the school.
"The Longhorns have a huge presence in Texas, with a passionate fan base that extends across the country," said David Preschlack, executive vice president, Disney and ESPN Media Networks in announcing the agreement. "Verizon's early commitment to this network speaks to the university's popularity and the consumer demand for this content."
Noted Terry Denson, vice president of content strategy and acquisition for Verizon: "We know Texas Longhorn fans are among the most loyal and enthusiastic in college sports, so we're pleased to add the Longhorn Network to our already robust sports lineup on FiOS TV. The addition of this groundbreaking collegiate sports channel adds to Verizon's commitment to bring the best in sports and entertainment and overall video content to our customers."
LHN has run into some difficulties relative to the availability of a second UT football game, the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Big 12 Conference, and planned coverage of high school football contests, which the NCAA ruled against because of the potential for giving the school an edge with recruits.
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