According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the Houston Astros, who are part owners of Comcast SportsNet Houston along with the Houston Rockets and NBC, nixed an 11th-hour deal with DirecTV that could have put CSN Houston on the provider and delivered Rockets games to its subscribers at the beginning of the Rockets season. Additionally, it is believed that such a deal, had it been completed with DirecTV, would have almost certainly led to similar deals with U-verse and Dish Network. Currently, CSN Houston only airs on Comcast and a few smaller providers which represent about 40 percent of the coverage area.
Without the approval of the Astros, who own 46 percent of the channel to the Rockets' 30 percent and NBC's 22 percent, no deals can be made. The Astros allegedly balked at negotiations between CSN, the Rockets and DirecTV before a final deal could be struck because they believed they could hold out for a better price. While the Rockets have been broadcasting on CSN Houston since October, the Astros won't have games on the channel until the spring.
It has been assumed for some time now that no final deals would be made until the Astros games were threatened. If the Astros did indeed block the Rockets from making a deal with DirecTV, it is easy to see why many believed no deals would be done until Astros games were on the chopping block.
If true, it would be an ironic turn of events for the Rockets. Astros team president George Postolos, who held the same position with the Rockets until 2006, was one of the first to trumpet the idea of a joint network between the Rockets and the Astros in the late 1990s when he was still with the Rockets. Now, as the head of the Astros, he could be the person preventing his former team and employer from airing their games to the majority of Houstonians, which has been an embarrassment to the Rockets, particularly with the All Star game being played in Houston this year.
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Astros owner Jim Crane has been a somewhat controversial figure since he took over the team in 2011. He fired virtually everyone on the business side of the ball club and went through a housecleaning that affected the entire organization from the field to the broadcast booth, even redesigning the uniforms and logo.
If Crane and the Astros are responsible for keeping the Rockets off the air this season, it would no doubt infuriate fans of the Rockets who have been rightfully frustrated over the lack of broadcast options for regular season games.
The Astros referred questions to Matt Hutchings, president and general manager of CSN Houston, who responded with the following statement via e-mail:
We have offered the network at what we feel is a fair market value, considering we have two pro teams (and confidentially will be announcing a third, the Dynamo, soon), local and regional collegiate and high school product, and daily news and sports talk shows. DIRECTV is valuing it at a different rate, which we believe is below FMV and we're in the process of negotiating and reaching a compromise that both organizations feel is fair and a good value. One large provider, Comcast, and four smaller providers believe the value is there and have signed on.