An End To The CSN Houston Dilemma?


The almost irrevocable, financial mess that has occurred at CSN Houston since the start of the network two years ago may finally have some culmination.

CSN Houston, also known as the Houston Regional Sports Network, was a joint venture of Comcast Sports Group, the Houston Rockets and the Houston Astros.

The network, which was a great idea on paper, was expected to flourish and be a lucrative venture for all parties involved.

As it stands, the Astros are the majority owners of the network with a 46 percent share, the Rockets owns 32 percent and Comcast owns 22 percent.

However, that plan went south when the network was unsuccessful in striking carriage deals with other cable networks.

The reason why?

Their asking per-subscriber fees — about $3.40 per — were deemed too exorbitant for the size of the regional sports network (RSN) by other carriers.

These subscriber fees usually make up nearly 90 percent of an RSN’s revenue and since CSN Houston wasn’t getting them, this caused its finances to spiral out of control.

Since the bankruptcy filing last September, CSN Houston has been hemorrhaging money at rate of $9 million per month and it could be in upwards of $100 million so far.

Apr 14, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; CSN broadcaster Sebastian Salazar interviews Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis (11) after a match against the Chicago Fire at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

That’s not exactly the outcome that said partnership envisioned.

Since Day One, the arm-wrestling match for consumer dollars between the network and the cable companies has resulted in Houston sports fans alike losing out on seeing their favorite teams on television, unless, of course, you’re a Comcast subscriber.

Until now…

If the proposed petition is approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, CSN Houston will have new owners.

Those owners will be none other than AT&T and DirecTV, two companies that have a combined presence of 44 percent in Houston area households.

DirecTV, which is currently in the process of being acquired by AT&T, will work in cohorts in the new partnership.

For years, AT&T has been steadily trying to find a way to grow their telecom business and this deal as well as the purchase of DirecTV will ensure that they remain major players not only in the Houston market but for the entire country.

"In a joint press statement that the companies released yesterday morning, the companies said, “The Houston Regional Sports Network, along with the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets, filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston a proposal to transfer ownership to a joint venture between DIRECTV and AT&T. Once the proposal is voted on by the creditors and approved by the court, DIRECTV and AT&T look forward to providing this great sports programming to Astros and Rockets fans throughout the region.”"

It truly is a competition of who can be the biggest, baddest telecom company on the block.

Comcast has that distinction so far…

So anyway, what does this mean for fans alike in Clutch City?

It will mean that eventually the majority of us will get to see our Rockets and Astros again, just like the old days.

There’s still a lot of hurdles to clear though before that happens.

The proposal must be approved by court, then the carriage agreements must be signed which, as we all know, it’s easier said than done.

Once that happens — fans who have either AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV or Comcast would have the coveted access that they need.

The Houston Chronicle’s David Barron said that this deal will have no effect on Comcast subscribers because they already committed to an agreement in place to broadcast the content.

But you never know, bankruptcy proceedings can get quite nasty and it wouldn’t surprise me that Comcast would find a way to weasel their way out of the deal just to get their cut.

There are always loopholes…

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Heck, we haven’t talked even about the $100 million the Rockets and Astros spotted Comcast to start the network in the first place!

You better believe both teams are going to sue for every penny to get it back!

Yikes, second thought, it could get nasty!

Nonetheless, those mentioned telecom companies comprise the majority of the market share for fans living in the Houston area.

This deal will make it easier to get the wheels in motion because DirecTV already has RSN’s either owned or operated in the cities of Denver, Pittsburgh and Seattle.  Each of them fly under their Root Sports banner.

“DIRECTV and AT&T look forward to providing this great sports programming to Astros and Rockets fans throughout the region.” -Joint Press Statement from AT&T and DirecTV, Aug. 7, 2014

Unless we find out otherwise, Houston would be their newest RSN and the CSN name would be truncated to form Root Sports Houston.

Root Sports Houston?  Sarcastically speaking, I’m sure Comcast would love that name!

Wow.  That will take some getting used to but if it’s a permanent fix, not a stop-gap measure, I’m all for it!

After all, the citizens of H-Town deserve it and it appears that there is a tiny sliver of light shimmering at the end of the dark tunnel we’ve been in.

So get ready, Root Sports Houston is on deck and they better bat 1.000 for all of us and the process needs to be quick and painless.

We can only hope that it will be.

This could be a new match made in heaven and would be a stark contrast to a marriage from hell in the current agreement if that’s what you want to call it.

The Rockets’ season starts in three months and all parties of interest are on the clock.

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…