Longhorn Network draws big crowd, few networks

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KUT’s reporter Ben Philpott, far left, interviews ESPN’s Dave Brown and Stephanie Druley, along with UT Athletics Director Chris Plonski on Tuesday night.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

Although many Central Texas UT fans still cannot watch the recently launched Longhorn Network, channel officials said Tuesday greater access should be available soon.

Athletics director Chris Plonsky joined Dave Brown, Vice President of Programming for the Longhorn Network, and Stephanie Druley, Vice President of Production for the Longhorn Network, to discuss the distribution, programming and coverage of the network onstage at the Cactus Cafe. The network is a collaboration between ESPN and UT.

The network first aired last Friday to a limited audience, but according to Brown, deals with the major cable companies are still being negotiated and most fans still do not have access to the content.

Druley said the lack of widespread access will be worked out to address the concern that the network is still unavailable to many fans.

When asked what made the Longhorn Network a good investment for ESPN, Brown said that it was due in part to the “great economic power“ of Texas’ large fanbase. He said that this was a groundbreaking and unique project. Brown said the strength of the Longhorn brand is part of the reason that this will be a successful project for ESPN.

Representatives at the public forum discussed the availability of a suitable amount of content for the network. Plonksy said finding quality events would not be a problem for the network.

“There are a whole lot of other events left over once the conference takes its selection [of events],” Plonsky said.

She said that usually these lower-profile events are aired online, but with the Longhorn Network fans will be able to watch them on TV.

“The production is incredible,” Plonsky said. “It’s like ESPN with an orange tinge.”

In addition to game coverage, Druley spoke of original content which will air on the network, including an all-access show with the football team and coverage of Longhorn football practices. Druley said that as an ESPN project quality is a priority for the network.

“The bar is set higher for us in terms of what we must achieve because of those four letters,” she stated.

KXAN sports director Roger Wallace discussed the effects of the Longhorn Network on local news stations such as his own. He believed the Longhorn Network would not have an adverse effect on local sports coverage.

Wallace said that KXAN will maintain the same pre-game and post-game coverage for UT football and will continue to report on other events such as women’s basketball.

“I don’t think it really will [affect sports coverage at KXAN]. Our access will be essentially the same and, if anything, [the Longhorn Network] could enhance it,” Wallace said. “We could even receive access through the Longhorn Network to some events that we normally couldn’t get to.”

Printed on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 as: Officials discuss Longhorn Network's limited audience.