AUSTIN - As ESPN prepares for a third season of Texas football games on its Longhorn Network, the company's senior vice president for college networks programming said Thursday that no carriage agreements are imminent for Comcast or Time Warner, the leading cable providers in Houston and in Central Texas, respectively.
LHN, which will air the Longhorns' games this year against New Mexico State, Mississippi and Kansas, is available in about 1.5 million households in Texas and about 4 million nationwide, said Justin Connolly, who oversees the Texas-affiliated network and ESPN's Southeastern Conference network that launches in 2014.
That list includes AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and five of the nation's 10 largest distributors but not Comcast, which has more than 680,000 subscribers in Houston, or Time Warner, which has systems in San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley.
Regarding Comcast, Connolly said, "The pace of conversation is slow right now. Part of that is that Comcast programming decisions are made in Philadelphia. … It's important to make sure that Philadelphia understands the importance of the LHN to Houston, which isn't always easy, but that is one of the many jobs of our sales force."
Comcast signed an omnibus distribution deal with ABC/Disney last year that did not include the Longhorn Network, but Connolly said the companies are in frequent contact on assorted issues.
ESPN will launch a new SEC channel next year, which has led to speculation that the company could market the two together, using the SEC network as leverage to convince distributors to carry Longhorn Network.
However, Connolly said, "We don't tie our networks together. We do not say to anyone, 'You have to carry X to get Y.' It's illegal."
Longhorn Network, Comcast not close to carriage deal
He did note that carriage negotiations frequently involve discussion of several programming options and assets.
Connolly also said that Disney focuses on larger carriers "without losing sight" of Suddenlink, which services 13 markets in Texas, including portions of the Houston area, and does not carry LHN.