New 20-year, $300 mil pact to feature sports, other content

ESPN has made a landmark 20-year, $300 million deal with the U. of Texas for a channel dedicated to the school’s sporting events and related programming.

More than 200 exclusive events will be presented annually on the channel, which will be owned, operated and staffed by ESPN.

While the bulk of the school’s high-profile football games will remain under existing contracts with ESPN/ABC and Fox, at least one will be televised live by the new net — along with at least eight men’s basketball games and a slew of other sports.

In addition, there will be encores of recent games (including football), historical sports programming, campus-based studio shows and a daily allotment of nonsports cultural offerings emanating from the university.

“Simply put, UT has among the most passionate fanbase for any sports team, college or pro, in this nation,” ESPN senior veep of college sports programming Burke Magnus said. “Today’s announcement represents something new for us. This is our first foray into launching a league-, conference- or school-specific network of thiskind. But when you have this (kind of) opportunity … you have to jump at it.”

ESPN said the Austin-based channel would bow in September. Of ESPN’s payment, $247.5 million will go to the university, with the remaining $52.5 million going to IMG College, the sports marketing and licensing division of IMG Worldwide that brokered the deal.

“We have been working with IMG College to bring this television network together for several years,” said DeLoss Dodds, the men’s athletics director at the school. “Our commitment to the Big 12 Conference allowed us to pursue this. We want to be as strong as we can be for us and the Big 12.”

An online component to the network is planned to offer additional events and content. That website will also be a key part of the network’s efforts to include Texas high school sports content in its coverage.

The Pacific 10 Conference — soon to be renamed the Pac-12 after adding the universities of Colorado and Utah — had courted Texas last year as part of its expansion plans, which are tied directly into the goal of creating its own revenue-generating TV network along the lines of the Big 10 Network, which launched in 2007 and is available in more than 70 million homes nationwide.

But Texas remained in the Big 12 Conference, buoyed by a television deal that was tilted even further in the school’s favor after the departures of Nebraska (to the Big 10) and Colorado — as well as the potential to create this separate endeavor.

“This is an extremely exciting new venture for our university,” UT prexy William Powers Jr. said. “This agreement provides significant new resources to enhance faculty and academic support.

“The situation that private education is in I think will require more private-public partnerships of this sort,” Powers added.

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