Projections that Texas will earn $3 million to $5 million a year from its own television network just never has seemed like a lot of money in the grand scheme of revenue streams.
With new Big 12 contracts in line to pay Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma some $20 million annually, another $3 million to $5 million seems like a drop in the bucket considering the investment of millions of dollars to create and run a television network. Plus, the sheer concept of an all-Longhorn, all-the-time network is somewhat elusive.
The Big Ten Network and the Mountain West Conference's endeavor, The Mtn., were created to broadcast its member teams' football games not picked up by network or cable TV. Makes sense. The rest of the year it broadcasts men's and women's basketball games and all the other sports -- league-wide.
But, what exactly would the Longhorn Network broadcast? Almost every Texas football game is already on TV. All four of Texas' non-conference football games this season will be on TV and it's hard to think any conference game won't be picked up. The majority of Texas men's basketball games are also televised between ESPN/ABC and Fox Sports. Plus, the channel will be subscription-based, so how many Longhorns out there will pay for programming, the bulk of which won't be live events, but replays of recent games or classic matchups or re-runs of live studio coaches shows?
Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne isn't enamored with the idea of a school starting its own network, and it has nothing to do with Texas being the school leading the charge. After all, Texas A&M, as Byrne noted in his weekly blog, already broadcasts many of the school's athletic endeavors for free on the Aggies All-Access website.
"In effect," Byrne wrote, "that is our Aggie Network and we offer it to you for free around the world."
Texas A&M is positioned as well or better than anyone in the Big 12 to start an Aggie TV network right now if it wanted. A&M already has in place the 12th Man Productions facilities, which was built with the plan to eventually put together an Aggie Network, Byrne wrote.
"Having said that, we would still need to invest millions of dollars to hire the staff, and purchase the equipment and air time to do our own network," Byrne wrote. "And while we would have some live programming from what ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports did not select, the bulk of programming would be replays of recent games and rebroadcasts of historical games. Even ESPN does not have enough live programming to fill its schedule each day. That's why the Aggie Network is still on the Internet.
"Today, the financial numbers simply do not work in our favor to produce 168 hours of TV every week. If you think about it, a separate school network does not work unless it's public television, and they need all kinds of institutional and federal government funding. Last time I checked, the college athletic departments are not eligible.
Byrne sees far more value in a conference network, which the new Pac-10 plans to unveil -- the Pac-10 was demanding Texas drop its plans for a network in order to join the conference, a key snag in the failed negotiations.
"A conference television network can work," Byrne wrote. "There is enough live and delayed inventory to fill the week, although, even then, the live programming would be skimpy. I would support the new Big 12 developing its own network. If you have your own network, the paradigm has shifted on how you build a conference. You ultimately want to expand your footprint to increase the number of cable/satellite viewers who pay a monthly fee to receive your network."
Hence the Big Ten's desire to expand into new markets as well as the Pac-10's big swing to grab the state of Texas with its top 10 media markets of DFW and Houston.