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First came ESPNU, an all sports network devoted to college athletics. It was followed quickly by what is now called CBS College Sports. Both have wide distribution thanks to the ability of their corporate parents to leverage their popular channels to force cable systems to carry the college sports networks if they wanted to get ESPN or any of Viacom's properties such as Showtime.
Then, we got mtn, but the problem was no one could see it, not even the people living within the footprint of the Mountain West Conference who presumably would be interested in watching. Then came the Big Ten Network, with instant carriage on DirecTV by handing over an equity stake to Rupert Murdoch, who then owned the sat network. However, with BTN came nasty disputes with cable systems, primarily the large systems led by Comcast and Time Warner so that in its season, Comcast viewers in Big Ten country either had to switch to satellite or did without.
Why the quickie history lesson? The next step in specialty college sports networks is about to make its presence felt. What could come after channels devoted to college sports in general or a particular conference? Why, one devoted solely to a single university of course. The University of Texas is planning a channel devoted to Longhorn athletics and is currently discussing partnerships and carriage issues with the two satellite channels and the major cable networks. It will not, at least initially, carry football or most men's basketball games as those rights are held by the Big XII and sold as league-wide deals, which places the channel at a severe disadvantage in getting viewers. I just don't know how big the market is, even in Texas, for a channel devoted to baseball, volleyball, track and field hockey. There is only so many hours of watching Bevo graze in a field that even the most diehard Longhorn can take. Nevertheless, this experiment will be watched very closely in certain offices in the South and around Los Angeles.