DirecTV Drops Gauntlet on CSN, Sports Networks and Fans

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DirecTV, considered by many to be the linchpin in negotiations to get Comcast SportsNet Houston on cable system providers other than Comcast, is apparently digging in its heels when it comes to sports networks in particular. On a Web site -- DirecTVPromise.com -- it has an entire section dedicated to sports with the title "No Fan Should Be Sidelined."

On it, DirecTV lays out its argument for why it refuses to agree to deals with sports networks like CSN Houston, claiming sports networks are responsible for a doubling in cost of basic cable (from $40 to $80) in the last decade. It also provides an update on negotiations with CSN, claiming it is "ready and willing" to discuss options.

In short: The saga continues.

Unfortunately, we have yet to be able to reach an agreement with the owners of CSN Houston that allows customers to choose whether they want to pay to see the games or not. We are ready and willing to have that discussion any time so we can begin providing this network. Until then, DIRECTV customers can still see Astros games on FOX, TBS, MLB Network and especially ESPN (which carries the season opener) or hear the games on Houston's KTRH 740 AM, XM Radio and other regional radio carriers.

Conspicuously absent from that message are the Rockets, which seems rather odd to me considering the status of the team. When you consider that the Astros are the majority owner of the network, however, it's clear where DirecTV is pointing the finger.

DirecTV has other CSN networks on its platform in Chicago and Los Angeles, but it is clear it has drawn a line in the sand with the Houston network, leaving local fans in a lurch. Astros owner Jim Crane has been vocal recently about negotiations, saying that they want to make a deal that is fair, which means "good for the Astros." Obviously, that deal isn't good enough for DirecTV.

The satellite provider is definitely in attack mode, letting its customers know they aren't going to pay more than they think they should for these networks -- check the blistering shot at the Pac-12 Network on the same Web site as an example. Of course, DirecTV is as greedy as the next corporation, so while this PR campaign may be clever, they are not doing it to side with customers so much as they are doing it to benefit their bottom line.

Still, as much as I love sports, I can't totally disagree with their stance. I don't know if their claim that sports networks have doubled the cost of basic cable is accurate, but there has been an explosion of sports programming on cable, substantially more than any other single interest. As much as sports fans may love it, there are millions of TV watchers who couldn't care less. And do we really need four channels for every sports network, channels for every college conference and one for every pro sports league? Probably not.

For now, that leaves the approximately 60 percent of Rockets and Astros fans who don't have Comcast hoping for a deal, but I wouldn't be optimistic at this point, especially because it costs ATT U-verse and Dish Network nothing to sit back and watch DirecTV fight their battles for them.

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