It took longer than most pregnancies but fans of the Astros and Rockets will soon have more options for watching their favorite teams. Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur approved the reorganization of CSN-Houston, handing it to a partnership between DirecTV and AT&T which will rebrand the network as ROOT Sports Houston.
Crane: New era for Astros
Customers of AT&T U-Verse and DirecTV will soon be able to see the new network, most likely sometime in November. Customers of Comcast, by agreement, will continue to get the network although many of the programs and faces may change.
The Astros and Rockets were part-owners with Comcast in the previous network, drawn up by Comcast executives, Rockets owner Les Alexander and former Astros owner Drayton McLane. McLane sold his portion to current Astros owner Jim Crane when he sold the Astros to Crane's group in November, 2012. The network launched just a couple of months earlier.
In the new arrangement, the Astros and Rockets will have no ownership stake but will sign over broadcast rights to the new network for a fee. Once the ink dries on the rights contract, you can expect the Astros to begin spending more like other big league teams. Houston has had the lowest team payroll the past two seasons.
Still left on the docket is Crane's suit claiming fraud on the part of McLane and Comcast. That one my be quietly dropped if Crane is satisfied with the terms of the bankruptcy deal. It seemed like a weak case when it was filed and the passage of time has not improved the rationale behind it. The CSN arrangement may have been doomed to fail but a shrewd businessman like Crane should have done the due diligence at the time of sale to realize it could not work.
While the bankruptcy ruling is major news, there are still hurdles that need to be cleared, both legal and contractual. Still to be determined is whether ROOT will be able to make contracts with satellite carrier Dish TV and cable carriers like Time Warner Cable and Suddenlink. Part of the failure of CSN-H was its inability to make deals with other carriers.
This, then, becomes an important off-season for Crane, GM Jeff Luhnow and the Houston front office as they continue to mature their young prospects while being able to add some veteran pieces to the roster. Suddenly, a .500 team in 2015 seems at least possible.
- Bob Hulsey