I have mixed opinions on the the new Texas television network and it's relationship with ESPN. On one hand, I can't really begrudge Texas for finding a way to get more of their sports on television. If they and ESPN feel there is an unserved market for this, more power to them. More college sports on television is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
That being said, how this is all coming down is bad for college football, bad for fans and television subscribers (especially fans of other programs), and really bad for the Big XII. My number one issue goes to the part of the deal where Texas essentially reclaimed their rights to football games from the Big XII, and nobody raises an issue. In the past, when Nebraska games weren't claimed by FSN or ESPN/ABC (or Versus when they were involved), the game essentially reverted back to FSN for a pay-per-view broadcast. Now, that game reverts back to Texas and ESPN for the Longhorn Network. Good news, in a way, for Texas fans who won't have to shell out $39.95 to watch the game.
My concern is that this won't be simply "one game" for very long. In fact, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds told Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman that they plan on broadcasting conference games on the ESPN-UT network. In fact, I expect that once the existing Big XII/ABC/ESPN deal expires after 2015, Texas will not participate in a new Big XII television deal, but instead will broker their own deal on their own. The big games will still wind up on ABC and ESPN, and as long as the FSN/Big XII deal exists, many other games will end up there as well. The big impact is that the money that ESPN/ABC would have bid on the 10 team Big XII package will be reduced by the money that Texas will receive directly. That hurts the remaining schools in the Big XII.
Granted, schools like Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and possibly Missouri, can do similar things. Chances are that they might still come out the same or slightly ahead of where they'd be otherwise. But for schools like Kansas State and Iowa State, there's likely minimal interest in their national television rights except for those games against Texas and Oklahoma. Bottom line is that this deal likely reduces the Big XII to a mere scheduling arrangement that exists to ensure that Texas and their fans don't have to travel as far for road games.
As for fans, whether you'll like the Texas network depends in large measure on how your cable or satellite provider decides to package it up. In the state of Texas, there likely will be broad penetration on cable systems, meaning that it'll likely show up on your dial. But at what cost? If you are a Texas fan, you probably could care less, since it'll be far cheaper than a single pay-per-view broadcast. But what if you are an A&M fan? How do you react to having your cable bill go up $1 a month, and the money is being funneled to Austin as a "Bevo surcharge" buried in your cable bill?
In an ideal situation, it would be a premium channel like HBO that you could choose to subscribe to, but that's not the way cable television works. Every cable provider selects packages of channels, and you have to subscribe to the entire package if you want only one of those channels. That's why you pay for hundreds of channels when you only watch a handful of them. Personally, I'd love to see cable television revert to an ala carte pricing model, but I don't think it's going to happen. I only watch maybe a third of the channels on my cable plan, and it's a pretty spartan lineup at that. (And I like it, because I only pay $35 a month!) I get the basics that I want: sports (ESPN, ESPN2, Classic, FSN, and Versus; and they just added the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network) and news (Weather Channel, CNN, MSNBC). My wife likes the Food Network and a music channel, and every so often, we watch a comedy channel (i.e. TV Land, Cartoon Network, Fox News, or Disney). But there's a bunch of channels that we never ever watch. Still paying for them, though. I've looked at upgrading to a digital or satellite plan, and right now, it's not worth the doubling of the price by the time I hook up the extra televisions in the house just to get a couple of niche networks.
So let's say I want the Texas network: I might have to upgrade to a higher level plan and pay an extra $20 a month for a single channel. Ouch. Even worse: let's say I'm on a higher level plan, and now they bump the cost to add the Texas network...or worse, drop a channel that I actually want. Or more likely what will happen is what happened with the Big Ten Network and NFL Network. Cable companies balked, and even today, most homes don't receive these networks.
I guess what I'm saying is that if your cable/satellite bill is in the neighborhood of $100 or more and you want to watch Texas sports, you'll love this network. Otherwise, there's a good chance you won't. And the worst part is that this is going to multiply itself. A&M, Oklahoma, and Missouri are already looking at this...which means that if I'm a cable company in Dallas, I might need to find room for three different networks. Maybe more if Texas Tech or Baylor gets into the act. And in this day and age where bandwidth is still limited, many cable companies are going to have to say no.