Game Time: The Longhorn Network -- A Few Programming Ideas
I often think how cool it must have been to have the first fast-food restaurant in a given town. You plunk down your McDonald's, start flipping about a thousand burgers an hour (quantity over quality when you're that busy), and watch the money roll in.
And then Burger King drops in across the street -- it's still lucrative, but now you have to work harder to make a buck. Then in comes Wendy's...and KFC...and Hardee's...and then even another McDonald's (or ten)...and well you get it. And then I think of how hard it would be to be the fiftieth fast-food restaurant in that town.
Well, the University of Texas chose to remain in the Big 12 earlier this week, and a big reason for it (perhaps the biggest reason) was that the Big 12 was figuratively going to allow them to open the fiftieth fast-food restaurant in the town that is sports cable television.
Translation: Whereas the Pac-10 was going to require all of the University of Texas athletics content to go out over the air of the conference's television partners (Food analogy: Texas would have been just a collegiate sports chef, not a restaurant owner, albeit a very well paid chef.), the Big 12 will allow UT to form the Longhorn Sports Network, or UT Net, or Bevo Tivo, or whatever catchy name they come up with.
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. UConn Huskies College Football
TicketsThu., Sep. 29, 11:00am
Battle of the Piney Woods: SFA vs. SHSU
TicketsSat., Oct. 1, 3:00pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 11:00am
Rice University Owls Football vs. UTSA Roadrunners Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 6:00pm
This was all a great development for the University of Texas, assuming it works...
To think that the Longhorns' network's succeeding is a given is really placing a lot of faith in the brand of one institution. Proponents of the network will point to the success of the Big Ten Network as niche, collegiate programming that has gained traction in both subscribers and revenue -- the network is a huge catalyst in putting around $22 million per year into the coffers of Big Ten schools.
But the issue becomes content -- the Big Ten Network works because it is centered around several schools, and it certainly helps that many of those schools (despite being large, state-run universities) have largely national followings. In other words, with twelve schools, the Big Ten Network is never lacking for compelling content.
Imagine if you have two talk/sketch shows -- one with twelve writers (and four or five of them are really good) and one with just one amazing writer who has a few friends that float him a decent one-liner or two from time to time. The latter show could potentially be good for a while, but eventually the one writer runs out of steam, or runs out of time in the day, if nothing else. The former show would always be fresh and with that many really good writers it will never be lacking for material.
The Longhorn Sports Network's risk is that it's structured like the "one-writer talk show." Granted, the expectations are scaled way back in terms of overall business as compared to a conference network, but my point is are Longhorn athletics (or any single school's athletics, for that matter) so compelling that it can carry programming 24/7? Maybe. We'll find out.
The question is "How much of a programming burden will the 'Olympic' sports be asked to carry?" I have a daughter who plays travel soccer who aspires to play collegiate soccer one day. It would be an amazing recruiting tool to be able to tell me, as a parent, that I could watch all or most of her games on the Longhorn Sports Network. I would learn how to do a back handspring just so I could do one, I'd be so ecstatic. But the issue becomes how broad is the scope of (a) people willing to watch sports like women's soccer and (b) more importantly, the scope of advertisers willing to sponsor sports that...well, aren't football or men's basketball (maybe baseball, too). They don't call them non-revenue sports for nothing...well, actually they do call them that for "nothing," because that's how much profit they generate.
So how many times do you run replays of UT football games and Top 10 lists of "Favorite Longhorn [fill in noun here]" before people say "this is repetitive, this is boring"? The answer may be "There isn't one," that's what UT is banking on. Because let's face it, in a viewing universe where you're competing with CBS, ABC, a half-dozen flavors of ESPN, all of the regional Fox's, Comcast, and (for mindless "Top 10" type stuff especially) the internet, the University of Texas just walked away from a potentially huge payday with the Pac-10 for the ability to open up the fiftieth fast-food restaurant.
Fortunately, there is something in the state of Texas that the Longhorns have outside of elite football that can help them program their network...ME! You need compelling programming ideas, Longhorn-related of course, well I've got some! Get out your pen, DeLoss....
Tailgate Cape Fear (starring Casey Hampton) -- Food shows are all the rage right now, and if food program categories were Olympic events, then anything in the "Gluttony" category would be the popularity equivalent of men's basketball -- the highest of high-profile foodie indulgences. (Signed, Adam Richman.)
The plain, vanilla (easy) answer would be to have former Longhorn heffer Casey Hampton tackle food challenges at various eateries in the Big 12 footprint, but quite honestly watching Hampton take down a 96-ounce chicken fried steak would be like watching a whale eat a chicken McNugget.
I say instead we take advantage of the fear that Hampton could strike into the hearts of Longhorn fans if he were to show up at their tailgate parties with an appetite. So to that end, instead of some organized "challenge", before each weekend of the college football season we'll starve Hampton for the entire week. Then on gane day, we will dress him up like Max Cady (Robert DeNiro's character in Cape Fear -- Hawaiian shirt, white pants, skipper's hat) and then turn him loose on Saturday morning in the parking lot.
There he will find the biggest, baddest, bestest tailgate party and proceed to handcuff the hosts of the party inside their car or SUV while he proceeds to eat every morsel of food. The only rules will be that Hampton must finish all of the food within 30 minutes and he must turn and snarl menacingly at the hosts like a rabid animal between every bite (bonus points if he speaks in tongues like Cady while he's eating).
Frankly, the "fat dude gorging himself to death" has been done already, but the "fat guy gorging himself to death while simultaneously scaring the ever-loving shit out of an incarcerated, innocent family" market is ripe to be captured.
VY-MAN (A Superhero Cartoon) -- We found out this weekend that when Vince Young is around, you just don't flash the "Horns Down" sign. If you decide to do it in his presence, you're showing reckless disregard for your cranium because VY will rain blows down upon you like Frank Costanza scrapping for the last doll at the toy store at Christmastime.
I'm proposing an animated program where Vince Young (mediocre quarterback by day, burnt orange cape wearing superhero by..rest of the day) runs all over creation stomping out evil villains like The Sooner, The Ag-guin, and T. Boone Luthor any time they try and display their deplorable hand gestures in public. Surreal "very special episode" will be when Hook Em is actually doing a "Horns Down" (possible heel turn?) only to find out that Sooner superfan Jim Ross had hijacked the outfit, complete with VY ripping off the oversized Hook Em head to reveal Good Ol' JR and having JR drop a "GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY!! I would've GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT too, if it weren't for you MEDDLING KIDS!!!"
Bosom Longhorn Buddies (starring Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley) - This one is a little risky because sitcoms involving great comedic duos are more 1980's than 2010's, but let's throw it out there. I'm not sure how many of you know this but Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley used to be roommates back in the day (and may still be, what the hell do I know?). Good old-fashioned slapstick roommate/"two dudes who are
maybe a little too friendly" humor is typically can't miss, and I think that Colt and Ship are comedy gold waiting to happen. The possibilities are endless, like...
...two dudes who have to dress up like women to afford shelter....
....two dudes who are cousins, one of them named Balkie....
....two dudes who have to share a daughter with questionable paternity....
...or maybe the best one to take advantage of their limited range as potential actors would be two rednecks tricking around in a muscle car covered with confederate symbols...
...because if for some reason the network runs into contractual issues with Colt and Jordan, they can always go with
Coy and Vance Case and Jaxon...
Longhorn DWI NASCAR -- While crossover into shows that push the comedic, creative boundaries for the Longhorns are potentially groundbreaking, ultimately it's a sports audience that the Longhorn Sports Network will have to cater to, so we're going to need some crossover stuff that incorporates sporting elements.
Well, I have one that not only combines a "fear factor" theme with a sporting event, but it also provides a nod of the head to the Longhorns' rich tradition of getting arrested for DWI! (I know, win-win-WIN, right?)
My idea is that we get Sergio Kindle (arrested July 2007), D.J. Monroe (November 2009), Vondrell McGee (April 2010), Marcus Davis (December 2009)...(do I need to keep going?)...get them all together, give them each a case of beer to consume, block off the area around 6th Street and turn it into a Grand Prix-style race course. Whichever one makes it the farthest before crashing into a building is the winner! (Bonus -- Augie Garrido gets to wave the flag to start each race!)
Bizarro Silent Library (starring Limas Sweed) - For those who aren't familiar with Silent Library on MTV, the concept is pretty simple -- basically, six friends draw cards throughout the show to do a series of Jackass/Fear Factor style stunts (the one drawing the "bad" card is the one who has to perform the stunt/self-mutilation technique) for money. The catch is that they all have to remain silent while the stunt is taking place (hence, Silent Library) or else they don't get paid.
My concept would be similar in that there would still be abusive, gory stunts performed -- lots and lots of them. The differences between the MTV version of the show and my version would be as follows:
1.) Instead of six contestants, there would only be one
2.) On every episode that contestant would be former Longhorn wide receiver Limas Sweed
3.) He would get paid nothing.
4.) I don't care if he remains silent or not while he has these painful, ungodly acts thrust upon him; in fact, the louder the screaming the better
5.) Instead of the show being hosted by some Japanese dude who sounds like he's from Elkhart, IN, it would be hosted by my producer Kyle "The Taskmaster" Manthey, the biggest Steeler fan and Limas Sweed hater (one and the same, really) that I know.
6.) Kyle would be allowed to dump Tabasco sauce on any open wounds Sweed suffers as a result of the various stunts.
That is all. Call it payback for all of the undue stress that Sweed has caused Steeler fans.
Reruns of COPS, Longhorn Edition -- When in doubt, just do what MyTV or WGN or any network that's trying to compete with the big boys does in off-peak hours....run episodes of Cops. Shouldn't be too hard to dig up some Longhorn material there.
Simply put, DeLoss, this "having your own television network" thing is not as easy as it looks. You can only replay the football team's pounding of Iowa State from the previous weekend so many times before you say "Shit, I guess we need to cover the women's volleyball game." But it doesn't have to come to that. I'll see to it.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.