College football’s premier Week 12 primetime game will take place in Austin on Saturday.
The No. 15 Texas Longhorns will host the No. 16 Iowa State Cyclones for third-place positioning in the Big 12, a slot that could easily result in one team reaching the conference championship game. It’s the only ranked Power Five matchup of the evening. Yet many in Iowa won’t be able to watch the Cyclones. Thousands outside Texas will struggle to find the game, too.
Broadcast by Longhorn Network (7 p.m.), Texas and Iowa State has the potential to be the least-viewed ranked clash of the year. Not that we’d ever know. Longhorn Network isn’t Nielsen rated, so viewership numbers are not publicly available.
Seven years into its 20-year contract, ESPN’s Longhorn Network remains one of a kind in college football. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week of Longhorn-centric coverage. From Bevo in a field on Christmas to Vince Young’s Rose Bowl run on repeat, LHN is the place for Longhorn TV coverage.
But few fans outside of Texas – and many in it – receive the channel.
247Sports reached out to a number of prominent cable, satellite and streaming services to see how and if they carry LHN. In the cases in which LHN is available, 247Sports asked for the TV package tier LHN appeared on. The results aren’t positive for the casual TV subscriber hoping to watch Iowa State-Texas.
DIRECTV: Carried nationwide in Premiere Package (6th of 6 tiers) OR add the Sports Pack
DIRECTV Now: Carried in Texas (2nd of 5 tiers)
Dish Network: Carried nationwide in America’s Top 120 Plus (2nd of 4 tiers)
Cox: Carried nationwide in its Contour TV Package (2nd of 2 tiers) WITH added Sports and Info Pack 2
Spectrum: Carried in Texas with base cable package
Grande: Carried in Texas (2nd of 5 tiers)
Verizon Fios: Carried nationwide with Ultimate HD package (3rd of 3 tiers) OR in added Sports & News Package
AT&T U-Verse: Carried nationwide in U-200 package (3rd of 5 tiers)
PlayStation Vue: Carried in Texas/Oklahoma (2nd of 4 tiers) OR Arkansas/Louisiana/New Mexico (3rd of 4 tiers) OR nationwide (Sports Package – Requires 3rd or 4th tier subscription)
A few other companies carry LHN (Suddenlink, Frontier Communications) but those are the main national options. It can be expensive to access LHN, and it rarely comes in the first or second-tier setup. One notable admission from the list above is Mediacom, a company that services much of the Midwest and many Cyclone fans. Mediacom doesn’t carry Longhorn Network, boxing out many Iowa State faithful from watching the game on their home TV sets.
Even if an Iowa State fan were to find the game, the broadcast would come with a significant burnt orange tinge. Play-by-play announcer Lowell Galindo usually works in a Longhorn echo chamber with his LHN studio duties and basketball broadcasts, while Texas graduate Ahmad Brooks will serve as the color analyst.
Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard declined to comment for this story. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby did not return a request for comment.
ESPN and the University of Texas partnered to form the Longhorn Network in 2011. The 20-year contract is unique in college athletics. Texas remains the only college program with an over-air network. Notre Dame’s agreement with NBC is the only similar deal, with NBC broadcasting each of the Irish’s home games.
Longhorn Network is contractually stipulated one Texas football game a season. However, the contract specifies a “mutual desire” between UT and ESPN to show at least two games a season on LHN. That’s in part how Iowa State v. Texas landed on LHN in 2018 – LHN also broadcast Texas’ game with Tulsa.
Monetarily, LHN is a boon for the Longhorns. Texas received a $10.98 million royalty in Year 1 of the contract, and that number increases three percent each year of the contract until the network reaches profitability. After that Texas is guaranteed 70 percent of the profits. The Longhorns receive that money in addition to their annual revenue share numbers from the Big 12.
However, the Big 12 is the only Power Five conference without its own television network. Some other leagues have found rapid success with their TV extensions (Big Ten Network, SEC Network) while others have floundered (the Pac-12 Network). For perspective, DirectTV carries the BTN and SEC Networks in its third tier of its packages. LHN is slotted on the sixth of six tiers.
ESPN PR sent out an email earlier this week designed to help journalists inform their readers where to find Longhorn Network.
Seven years in, Longhorn Network remains a positive for the University of Texas. Its All-Access segments are popular and well produced. The network’s won numerous awards for its features and live coverage. LHN’s presence also allows for lesser seen sports like women’s basketball and volleyball to find a home week after week.
But with LHN’s biggest event of the year upcoming, many will have a problem finding the channel in their homes.