Less than a week after announcing it intends to purchase Bleacher Report to make a larger splash in the college sports space, Time Warner Cable could now be a potential suitor for the ever so controversial Longhorn Network.
The ten month-old Longhorn Network is still searching for the perfect cable partner to pick up its rich content and it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to agree Time Warner would be the perfect marriage. The two had been rumored to be engaging in dialog about a distribution deal and talks were going nowhere, but Kirk Bohls of the Austin-American Statesman is reporting:
…An industry source told me Time Warner is interested in trying to buy the Longhorn Network or at least partner with ESPN on the property, for which ESPN is shelling out $300 million over 20 years. Time Warner representatives at the corporate office have not returned phone calls for several weeks, and the cable provider won’t even disclose the last time it negotiated with ESPN. ESPN has failed to reach any distribution agreements with major cable providers or satellite companies.
In a statement Sunday, Time Warner said, “We had discussions with ESPN (about distribution), and we did not come to an agreement on terms for a contract that would allow Time Warner Cable to distribute the Longhorn Network. At this time, there aren’t plans to carry the Longhorn Network.”
Nobody knows what “at this time” means. It could be that they’re putting talks on the shelf for the time being or it could mean never, but either way having Time Warner on board would be a home run for the Longhorn Network ant Texas. They are desperate for wide-scale distribution, which has been lacking since inception last summer, but that was expected. Texas had better get this going soon because as of now the network is doing nothing but pissing off its Big 12 cohorts. ESPN is paying Texas $300 million over 20 years for the Longhorn Network, but has failed to reach distribution agreements with any major cable providers or satellite companies.
None of this makes any sense to me, but conceivably it makes sense for ESPN to explore the real possibility of making the Longhorn Network available across the country. Time Warner has been eating up regional networks left and right in efforts to reach different markets, but they could also be trying to “buy low” here too. ESPN has never been willing to make concessions with networks and distributors, but this could be the first experiment with pressure rising in Bristol, CT and the 2012 football season looming.