On Tuesday, the judge in the Comcast Sports Net bankruptcy case granted the flailing sports network the opportunity to reorganize under Chapter 11, which gives them protection from creditors until they can work out what they are going to do next. This is a clear victory for the folks at Comcast and the network, neither of whom want to see the channel die. For the Astros, this is a blow to their efforts to get out of the network and move on. The Rockets remain relatively neutral, still stuck with only 40 percent of the market, but with better options than the Astros.
Currently, Comcast is the only major cable provider to carry the network. U-verse, DirecTV, Dish Network and Suddenlink have been unable to come to agreements primarily because the per-subscriber cost CSN wanted was too high. For months, Astros owner Jim Crane has been the driving force behind the push for higher rates, believing the team needs the money to remain competitive.
At the last hearing, the Rockets took over the negotiation process with carriage providers and were supposedly very close to an agreement as recently as Monday, but those negotiations appear to have fallen through. Now they are back to the same arrangement, with all four of the parties -- Astros, Rockets and two Comcast representatives -- required to come to a unanimous agreement about any decisions regarding the network, the very source of the impasse. An additional hearing is set for Friday to discuss where they go from here.
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For the sake of fans and those who work for the network, let's hope that move is forward. With all the problems the network has had, it is clear this is a very well run channel with serious talent on board. Those who do have Comcast can attest that Rockets broadcasts have been excellent and the quality of programming is far and away superior to that on Fox Sports Southwest, the other local-ish sports network in Houston.
The reason for that is the hyper-local nature of the station. FSSW is a regional network that essentially covers the entire state of Texas. They carry Rangers and Stars games. But CSN is entirely Houston and the southeast Texas region. That means more local discussion of sports and more in-depth reporting right here.
Losing CSN, which would have most certainly happened had bankruptcy protection not been granted on Tuesday, would be a blow to local sports coverage even if currently only 40 percent of the city can see it.
For now, we all wait like we have been, seemingly no closer to a resolution. But if I had a vote, I would want CSN to remain on the air. I'd just prefer it to be on networks not named Comcast as well.