Hardly anyone was watching the Longhorn Network when it debuted Friday and not only because of little interest. ESPN was able to secure deals making it available in just 20,000 homes when the switch was flipped.
LHN was available in a greater Houston region and north of the city in Lufkin, Texas. Although it focuses on University of Texas sports, LHN was not available near the campus in Austin.
"We're in it for the long haul, and we feel confident about where we're headed," an ESPN representative said. "We're less concerned with the number at launch."
Indeed, ESPN has a 20-year deal to run the network with involvement from the University of Texas and IMG College.
While ESPN would have liked wide viewership of Friday's Texas-Pepperdine women's volleyball game, it will have some leverage in carriage negotiations over the next week. Operators may be pressured to offer LHN before Texas kicks off the football season Sept. 3 on the network.
Distributors that signed on by Friday are Consolidated Communications and three others owned by the same company operating along the Gulf Coast. Distribution will increase Sept. 1 as Verizon FiOS will carry LHN in part of the Dallas region, while two smaller operators will offer it in east Texas.
Verizon customers nationwide with a top-tier package will also receive it.
Verizon does not comment on how many homes it serves in the Dallas area. It has 3.9 million customers in all markets.
LHN went on the air with a studio show, followed by the Texas-Pepperdine women's volleyball game. Bringing the network widely to Austin would involve deals with Times Warner Cable and Grande Communications.