If you love candor — remember his puppet comments after taking the job? — Bob Bowlsby‘s likely your kind of commissioner. If you’re connected to the University of Texas’ athletic department? Maybe not so much.
At the same luncheon Wednesday in which Bowlsby (once again) tapped the brakes on expansion, the commissioner also addressed the $15 million elephant squatting in the middle of his conference’s living room. That pachyderm would, of course, be the Longhorn Network, a 24-hour television network subsidized by ESPN and dedicated to all things related to Longhorn sports.
It’s been a thorn in the side of the Big 12 ever since it was announced back in January of 2011. It was a sore spot for Texas A&M prior for that school’s departure from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2012. And even as it hasn’t seen the widespread distribution as originally thought — like the Pac-12 Networks, still no deal with DirecTV after reaching one with DISH in March — it’s still an entity that will bring the athletic department an average of $15 million annually over the 20-year life of the contract, much to the chagrin, private or otherwise, of the rest of the league.
Bowlsby pulled no punches in addressing the hindrance the LHN could become in future television/media negotiations for the conference. From the Oklahoman‘s transcript, with my emphasis added in a couple of spots:
The Longhorn Network is a boulder in the road. It really is. They did something that almost no other institution in the country could do because of the population in the state, and we’re looking at some way to try and morph that around a little bit. … It really begs the question about, how are we going to get our sports in the years ahead? If technology changes in the next five years as much as it’s changed in the last five years, we’re not going to be getting our sports by cable TV. I don’t know what it’ll be. But increasingly, we’re using mobile devices … Google Network and Apple TV and things like that are coming into play. … I’m not sure the world needs another exclusive college cable network. Rather than trying to do what everybody else has done, I would much rather try to figure out what tomorrow’s technology is and get on the front side of that and be a part of what happens going forward and monetize that.
Exactly how Bowlsby and the Big 12 can navigate its way around the 20-year LHN deal when it comes to future deals involving television or other new media entities, if it does indeed become the obstacle the commissioner suggests it could, will be one of the fascinating questions to see answered moving forward. Especially as it pertains to the ever-present and expansion speculation that simply won’t completely go away.
(Tip O’ the Cap: Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman)