For the first time since the inception of the CSN Houston network, only Comcast subscribers have been able to see the channel and, as a result, both the Rockets and Astros. But on Thursday the Astros, who had been named lead negotiators for the network back in November after CSN filed for bankruptcy, handed control over those negotiations to the Rockets, seemingly opening the door for deals to be made with carriers like U-verse, Dish Network and DirecTV, among others.
As we first reported early this year, the Astros were primarily responsible for keeping CSN from making deals with providers not named Comcast. The agreement between the parties who own CSN (Astros, Rockets and Comcast) requires unanimous approval on any deals, approval the Astros and owner Jim Crane refused to give.
In November, the judge in the bankruptcy case told the Astros to put up or shut up in response to Crane's assertion that, if given the opportunity, he could make deals that would put the teams back on TV. Less than a month later, he conceded there were no deals in place and initiated his own lawsuit against CSN and former Astros owner Drayton McLane, claiming they lied to him when he purchased the team regarding CSN's worth and deals that were made that stifled negotiations with other providers.
On Thursday, in response to CSN's concerns that the pending lawsuit would affect the Astros' ability to negotiate in good faith, Crane turned over the responsibility to the Rockets, who gladly accepted. Additionally, it was announced that the Rockets have made a formal bid to purchase the network.
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If the Rockets are able to make deals with other carriers, the judge in the bankruptcy case could rule that the deals should be put in place even if the Astros protest, which is why this latest development should be seen as a positive move for sports fans. In fact, the willingness by the Astros to relinquish control could be seen as recognition that their fight to block deals they believe are not financially favorable is over, instead preferring to focus on the lawsuit with CSN and McLane. If that is the case, it could clear the way for the Rockets to acquire the struggling network and get games on the air fairly soon.
Wisely, the Rockets said in a statement Thursday they intend to keep negotiations VERY close to the vest and not discuss them publicly, unlike Crane, who might be learning a lesson in discretion during this process.
There is still a long way to go and another hearing has been scheduled for January 7, but Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has always been aggressive when pursuing arrangements he believes benefit his organization. With the Rockets playing well this season while the Texans and Astros struggle, Alexander knows this is the time to rekindle the city's interest in the Rockets, but that won't happen without TV deals in place that broadcast games into more than 40 percent of Houston homes.
Maybe a Christmas miracle will occur and Houston fans will get to see more than A Christmas Story on their TVs this holiday season.