SBD/Issue 36/Sports Media

Astros, Rockets Reach Deal With Comcast For New Sports Network

Rockets Games Will Begin Airing On Comcast
SportsNet Houston For '12-13 NBA Season

The Astros and Rockets announced Friday they have reached an agreement with Comcast "to launch a new Houston regional sports network that will air Rockets games" beginning in the fall of '12 and Astros games beginning in '13, according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The teams, who have been television partners since '03, will "own just under 80 percent of the new network," to be called Comcast SportsNet Houston. The teams on Friday informed FS Houston "of their plans to terminate their agreements with the network" at the end of the '11-12 NBA season and '12 MLB season, respectively. Financial terms of the new partnership were not disclosed. The Astros and Rockets in '03 "valued their proposed network at more than $350 million, but that value likely has grown as the value of sports rights deals have increased over the last decade." Barron noted Comcast "will have a built-in audience for Comcast SportsNet Houston with its Houston cable operation but must negotiate carriage deals with other cable companies and satellite distributors." The new RSN ends Fox Sports' affiliation with the Astros, dating back to '83, and the Rockets, whose games have aired on FS Houston since its inception in '83 with the exception of the '02-03 and '03-04 NBA seasons. Fox in September signed a 20-year extension with the Rangers and "will continue to air the team’s games in Houston once the Astros leave Fox for Comcast." Fox Sports also will "continue in Houston as an outlet for Rangers games, Houston Texans-related programming and Big 12 football and basketball" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/30).

HOME ON THE RANGE: In Dallas, Barry Horn noted the "prospect of a Comcast RSN launch in Houston was, of course, the major reason" Fox Sports was "so eager to put up at least $1.6 billion for a new 20-year deal with the Rangers." That deal included "considerable upfront money that allowed the Chuck Greenberg-Nolan Ryan ownership group to outbid the Mark Cuban-Jim Crane group" in bidding to buy the Rangers from Tom Hicks. Fox was "worried that Cuban-Crane would bundle the Rangers with the Mavericks and pursue their own RSN," which would have "left Fox Sports Southwest with only the NHL Stars, Big 12 and high school programming" (DALLASNEWS.com, 10/29).

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