Longhorns on Grande, Cactus on Longhorns?

As Grande takes the Longhorn Network, KUT shoots a music pilot

Longhorns on Grande, Cactus on Longhorns?

There are probably some sighs of relief in the Longhorn Network offices today with the eleventh hour announcement that Grande Communications has become their first Central Texas provider. But the ESPN/UT project may be about to start filling in its non-athletic coverage too, as KUT is shooting a pilot at the Cactus Cafe on Tuesday.

KUT's associate general manager Hawk Mendenhall called us late Friday to say that the local NPR affiliate hopes ESPN will pick up the show for the Longhorn Network. Not only would it help the network fulfill its remit for non-sports broadcasting, but it would also be part of the brand expansion that KUT talked about when they took over the iconic campus venue.

Like every campus media outlet, KUT had been in preliminary discussions with ESPN about content, and their discussions had naturally centered around some form of music show. Earlier this week, Mendenhall met with ESPN's Don Colantonio, who is handling the non-athletics broadcasting component. Mendenhall said, "We kicked around some names for who might be a good artist for a pilot about a 'live from the Cactus' music show." They quickly settled on David Ramirez, the KUT-era Cactus' first artist in residence. Not only is he fresh off a sold-out show at the cafe but, as he is about to head out on tour, his entire band is in town. "They're all practiced up, they know what they're doing, and David's become a big friend to the Cactus, so they said yes."

The show, which will include a live audience (watch out for ticket details) will be completely self-produced by the station. KUT's multimedia producer Rebecca McInroy will serve as executive producer, while Folkways' Kevin Connor will be hosting the show. While there is no contract with ESPN, KUT will submit the edited product to ESPN around the end of the month. The format has still to be completely locked. "There's going to be a little interviewing, but it's going to be mostly music," Mendenhall said. While there is no guarantee that ESPN will pick up the show, he added, "At the very least it will end up on the Cactus website."

This is just one more part of the hectic pace around the Longhorn Network. Mendenhall said, "They are so run and gun with everything that they are doing while they're trying to get everything set up. It's like the wild, wild west at the moment, dealing with ESPN right now. It's pretty fun." There has been discussion of carrying student films and, Mendenhall said, "They're throwing all their resources at [President Bill Power's] state of the university address. They're covering it like everybody else covers the State of the Union."

The reality remains that the Longhorn Network has a lot of time still to fill. Even with the Longhorn sports they will be squeezing in around the wall-to-wall UT and non-UT football (the San Antonio Express-News is reporting that a deal is near to carry the last five matches of the UTSA season) there is an obligation to carry a minimum of 15% non-athletics programming. So far, the closest they have to anything confirmed along those lines is Traditions, which is still very football-fancentric.

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Longhorn Network, KUT, Cactus Cafe, Hawk Mendenhall, Grande Communications, Don Colantonio

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