Sports

Astros, Rockets Announce Launch of New Sports Network

The new logo for the Astros/Rockets regional sports network
The new logo for the Astros/Rockets regional sports network Screenshot
On Friday, the Astros and Rockets announced they had acquired AT&T SportsNet Southwest, the struggling regional sports network (RSN) carrying their broadcasts. The new network called Space City Home Network (SCHN) will debut on October 10 with the first Rockets preseason broadcast.

In joint statements, both teams expressed excitement over the new network and hoped it would lead to better and more local content. The network will remain on the same channels and service providers.

AT&T SportsNet Southwest, like so many RSNs, had struggled in recent years and was about to go bankrupt. It is an ongoing problem across the country that has, in some cases, forced teams off the air in local markets. The deal to start up SCHN will circumvent those issues.

This is not the first time these two Houston organizations have tried their hand at the regional sports network business. They partnered on CSN Houston, which collapsed in spectacular fashion when the Astros and Rockets couldn't come to a deal with cable provider AT&T on a carriage agreement. Cable networks pay a per-customer fee to RSNs for licensing rights and while Comcast (now Xfinity) carried games at the time AT&T as well as DISH Network did not.

Eventually, the partnership was dissolved and new Astros owner Jim Crane sued former owner Drayton McLane alleging he overvalued the network during the sale. That suit took nearly a decade to settle.

Now, with new owners Crane and Tilman Fertitta (Les Alexander owned the Rockets at the time of the original CSN deal) will try their hands at it. They do have some significant advantages this time around.

First, they have completed carriage agreements that last until 2035 giving them substantial stability for the next decade. And second, they have the network infrastructure already in place as well as the people — the team's staff and, presumably, many of the current AT&T SportsNet Southwest staff, will be kept in place.

For fans, this is a big win. Right off the bat, we'll get postgame coverage of Astros postseason games by the broadcast team including Geoff Blum, Todd Kalas and Julia Morales. Both teams have said they want to expand programming with more shows dedicated to local sports. And, over the weekend, Giles Kibbe, Astros Senior Vice President, General Counsel told Astros broadcasters that streaming is also on their radar, but they do not have a definitive timeline for that just yet.

For now, things will continue pretty much as is, but the future for local Rockets and Astros coverage looks bright.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke