Comcast SportsNet Houston
|Comcast SportsNet Houston|
|Launched||October 1, 2012|
|Owned by||Houston Astros (46.384%)
Houston Rockets (30.923%)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
|Replaced||Fox Sports Houston (unrelated, now defunct)|
|Coastal Link||31 (SD)
|Phonoscope Communications||35 (SD)|
|Consolidated Communications||42 (SD)
Comcast SportsNet Houston (abbreviated CSN Houston) is an American regional sports network that operates as an affiliate of Comcast SportsNet and serves Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. It is the exclusive home of the NBA's Houston Rockets and the MLB's Houston Astros. It also carries games and other programming of the Houston Dynamo (MLS), and several Houston-area college teams. It is majority owned by the Astros (at 46.384%) and Rockets (at 30.923%), and is operated through the NBC Sports Group unit of NBCUniversal (which owns the other 22.693%).
The initial idea of a team-owned regional sports network was first proposed in 1999. It was former Rockets president George Postolos, who floated the idea with Fox, who passed on the offer. The Rockets then teamed up with the Astros in 2003 to jointly launch an RSN. The first order of business was to sever ties with Fox Sports Houston, which led to a 20-month court battle. The settlement with Fox led to a new deal with the network valued at $600 million over 10 to 15 years. However, this contract contained a clause allowing the teams to bail on the contract and negotiate with other networks starting in late 2009.
The Astros/Rockets group held failed talks with Comcast, DirecTV, and AT&T U-verse. Continuation of the Astros and Rockets broadcasts on Fox Sports Houston was on the table as the network offered $1.2 billion over 10 years. However, it was ownership in a regional sports network that the two teams wanted. This led to the teams agreeing to a $1 billion contract with Comcast, which included a 77.307% ownership in the network. Comcast SportsNet Houston launched on October 1, 2012. Three days after Comcast SportsNet Houston launched, Fox Sports Houston was shut down, and its former programming moved back to parent network Fox Sports Southwest.
On September 27, 2013, NBCUniversal announced that affiliates of it and parent company Comcast had filed an involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition for the network to "resolve structural issues affecting CSN Houston’s partnership." The move did not sit well with the Astros, which stated that the filing was made "improperly" to prevent the Astros from ending its agreement with the network. The team also revealed that it did not receive the rights fees from Houston Regional Sports Network (the legal name for CSN Houston) for the final three months of the 2013 season. On February 4, 2014, Judge Marvin Isgur placed Comcast SportsNet Houston under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
A reorganization plan backed by the Astros and Rockets filed on August 6, 2014 proposes that ownership of the network would be transferred to a partnership of AT&T and DirecTV Sports Networks, with AT&T owning 40% and DirecTV owning 60%. If approved, this would likely result in CSN Houston being transitioned to the DirecTV-owned Root Sports chain, and the network's addition to AT&T U-verse and DirecTV. DirecTV is currently subject to a $48.5 billion takeover bid by AT&T.
In addition to the Astros and Rockets, CSN Houston airs games from regional Conference USA college football teams, most notably the Houston Cougars, Rice Owls, UTEP Miners, SMU Mustangs, and Tulane Green Wave. The network took over the broadcast rights of these games from sister channel Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast on July 5, 2012. CSN Houston's regional coverage of college football also extended down to the Football Championship Subdivision ranks, when it aired a Southland Conference football battle between the McNeese State Cowboys and Sam Houston State Bearkats. Currently CSN Houston is in their second season of being able to air select Southland football and men's basketball games.
CSN Houston airs several magazine shows featuring Houston Cougars sports, including Houston Cougar Football Central, The Tony Levine Show, and The Houston Basketball Coaches’ Show with James Dickey and Todd Buchanan. CSN Houston also airs coaches' shows for the Rice Owls.
Starting with the 2013 season, CSN Houston broadcast between 15 and 20 Houston Dynamo Major League Soccer matches as part of a three-year deal. Although CSN Houston has stated that they do not have plans to broadcast Houston Texans (NFL) games, coverage of the team will be provided on the network's news programs.
After months of failed negotiations, DirecTV released the following statement: "Unfortunately, we have yet to be able to reach an agreement with the owners of CSN Houston that allows customers to choose whether they want to pay to see the games or not. We are ready and willing to have that discussion any time so we can begin providing this network. Until then, DirecTV customers can still see Astros games on FOX, TBS, MLB Network and especially ESPN or hear the games on Houston’s KTRH 740 AM, XM Radio and other regional radio carriers."
In response, CSN Houston placed this message on their website: “We remain committed to working out a deal with DirecTV. That said, this page of DirecTV’s website is very inconsistent with their own practices, as well as other pages on their site in which they call themselves “The Leader in Sports, Bar None.” We do not understand why they are pushing for CSN Houston to be the first and only RSN in the nation to be carried on a premium tier. We think that they should treat Houston fans the same way that they treat fans in other Top-10 markets, such as those in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington DC. Their current position on CSN Houston is also inconsistent with their practices in smaller markets such as San Diego, where they recently reached an agreement to carry a RSN that only features one San Diego-based professional team. CSN Houston features three professional Houston teams. We will continue to work with DirecTV, but feel that Houston fans deserve better than their current position.” 
Ratings have been competitive based on the total number of households with the channel, but overall have suffered due to the lack of availability in the Houston market. Through 15 games, Rockets games were averaging about a 0.95 Nielsen rating, which equals about 21,050 households. That is down from a 1.45 rating for the first 15 games on Fox Sports Houston, which was available on most providers in its market. CSN Houston President and GM Matt Hutchings had this to say; "I get it that everybody wants the channel. We want them to have it. We just have to find that right deal."  The current obstacle however to providing coverage on other providers is that CSN Houston, Rockets, and Astros signed a 10-year-deal with Comcast for exclusivity, with an opt-out date unknown to the public. In total, only about 40% of Houston-area viewers have CSN Houston available to them.
Anchors and reporters
- Tiffany Blackmon
- Steve Bunin
- Howard Chen
- Bill Doleman
- Sara Eckert
- Kevin Eschenfelder
- Cory Hepola
- Kelli Johnson
- Julia Morales
- James Palmer
- Marius Payton
- Leila Rahimi
- Sebastian Salazar
- Comcast Sports Southwest - a Houston-based channel dedicated to local college and high school sports in the Southwestern United States
- Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast - a channel featuring college and high school sports in the Southern United States
- TV-radio notebook: CSN Houston lands C-USA football games Houston Chronicle July 5, 2012 (retrieved July 7, 2012)
- Astros, Rockets reach deal on new network MLB.com News August 3, 2010
- Comcast SportsNet Houston plans October launch Houston Chronicle, March 7, 2012
- Fox Sports Houston signs off with familiar face Houston Chronicle, October 2, 2012
- "Bankruptcy petition filed on behalf of Comcast SportsNet Houston". KHOU. September 27, 2013. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
- "Judge places Comcast SportsNet houston in bankruptcy". Houston Chronicle. February 4, 2014. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
- Barron, David (August 6, 2014). "AT&T, DirecTV to take over Comcast SportsNet Houston". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
- de la Merced, Michael; Gelles, David (May 18, 2014). "AT&T to Buy DirecTV for $48.5 Billion". The New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
- Cowboys vs. Bearkats Game to Air on Comcast SportsNet Houston Southland Conference Digital Network Sept. 25, 2012 (retrieved Sept. 26, 2012)
- Cougars, CSN Houston to partner for weekly coaches shows Houston Chronicle, October 10, 2012.
- Lucas won’t do Astros games on CSN Houston; UH, Rice, HGA sign with new network Houston Chronicle, October 10, 2012
- Comcast deal expands team’s on-air reach Houston Chronicle, January 30, 2013
- CSN Houston channel finder
- CSN Houston stalemate continues; DirecTV CEO bashes high RSN fee requests Houston Chronicle, November 8, 2012
- DirecTV Promise: No Fan Should Be Sidelined DirecTV
- IWantCSN Houston.com - Distribution Information
- Fans express frustration over lack of Rockets, Astros network Advo Sports, November 25, 2012
- CSNH distribution of Rockets games stuck at 40 percent Houston Chronicle, November 30, 2012
- Comcast SportsNet Houston Debacle Keeping Buzz-Worthy Rockets from Getting Buzz Houston Press, December 7, 2012
- Parker invites DirecTV, U-verse and Suddenlink officials to summit meeting on CSN Houston carriage Houston Chronicle, April 10, 2013