Root Sports Southwest
|Root Sports Southwest|
|Launched||October 1, 2012 (as Comcast SportsNet Houston)
November 17, 2014 (as Root Sports Southwest)
|Owned by||DirecTV Sports Networks (60%)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
Eastern New Mexico
|Formerly called||Comcast SportsNet Houston (2012-2014)|
|Replaced||Fox Sports Houston (unrelated, now defunct)|
|Coastal Link||31 (SD)
|Phonoscope Communications||35 (SD)|
|Consolidated Communications||42 (SD)
|AT&T U-verse||758 (SD)
Root Sports Southwest is an American regional sports network. Owned by DirecTV Sports Networks and AT&T Inc., the network is part of DirecTV's Root Sports chain, serving Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Eastern New Mexico. It is the only Root Sports channel that isn't also a Fox Sports Networks affiliate, since FSN affiliate Fox Sports Southwest shares its coverage area.
The network was formed in 2012 as part of a joint venture between the Houston Rockets and Houston Astros, who were majority owners of the network, and whose games are broadcast by it. Comcast, who held the remaining stake of nearly 23%, operated the network as part of its Comcast SportsNet chain as Comcast SportsNet Houston. Under Comcast ownership, the network struggled to gain distribution deals with large providers aside from Comcast itself, resulting in significantly lower ratings for Astros and Rockets telecasts than under their previous deal with the defunct Fox Sports Houston. In September 2013, the network ultimately filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
On November 17, 2014, as part of a reorganization plan, AT&T and DirecTV jointly acquired the network from the previous consortium, and re-launched the network under DirecTV's Root Sports brand as Root Sports Southwest.
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. 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 through a joint subsidiary, Houston Regional Sports Network LP. 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 its rights fees from the network's parent company 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.
On August 6, 2014, DirecTV and AT&T proposed a reorganization plan, in which it would acquire CSN Houston in a 60/40 joint venture. DirecTV is currently subject to a $48.5 billion takeover bid by AT&T, which would result in the merged company having sole ownership of the network if approved. The reorganization offer was approved by the court on October 30, 2014, although Comcast appealed the decision in order to address a $100 million loan that had been given to the network. Attorneys from the companies involved reached an agreement to allow the deal to continue through Comcast's appeals process. Houston Rockets general counsel Rafael Stone stated that the approval gave a "clear path" for the network to return to full service during the month of November, and re-brand under DirecTV's Root Sports brand; the network had cancelled all of its existing studio shows on October 22, 2014.
Re-launch as Root Sports Southwest
On November 17, 2014, the acquisition of the network by DirecTV and AT&T was closed. At 6:00 a.m. CT, the network was re-branded as Root Sports Southwest, and was, as promised, added to AT&T U-verse and DirecTV. The new brand, which matches that of its Fox-owned competitor, signifies the network as serving the entirety of its broadcast region rather than solely Houston—a distinction which had brought difficulties in negotiating carriage deals outside of the Houston area. Some of CSN Houston's employees, primarily on-air talent and the staff responsible for Rockets and Astros telecasts, were retained, but 96 employees were laid off. Root Sports Southwest will not air as many local studio programs on-launch as it did under Comcast ownership.
As of November 2014, studio programming on Root Sports Southwest is limited to pre and post-game coverage for the Houston Rockets. As with other Root Sports networks, it also airs The Dan Patrick Show and The Rich Eisen Show. In 2013, the network acquired broadcast rights to the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer under a three-year deal, airing 15 to 20 games per season. The network also covers the women's Houston Dash.
Root Sports Southwest also airs college football games from Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference, 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. Its 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. It also shows selected Southland football and men's basketball games, particularly those of the Stephen F. Austin State Lumberjacks and the Sam Houston State Bearkats.
Root Sports Southwest also airs several magazine shows featuring Houston Cougars sports, including Houston Football Insider, The Tony Levine Show, and The Houston Basketball Coaches’ Show with James Dickey and Todd Buchanan. It also airs coaches' shows for the Rice Owls.
Root Sports Southwest is available on most television providers serving Greater Houston, including AT&T U-verse, Comcast, and national satellite provider DirecTV, along with smaller providers such as Coastal Link, En-Touch, Phonoscope Communications, and Consolidated Communications. Dish Network and Suddenlink Communications are the only remaining major providers in the area who do not carry the network.
Previously, the network was only available on Comcast cable systems in Houston, along with the aforementioned smaller providers. In total, CSN Houston served only around 40% of households in the Houston market. Upon its launch, ratings for the network's telecasts were competitive based on the total number of households with the channel, but suffered due to its lack of availability in the Houston market; the first 15 games of the Houston Rockets' 2012–13 season had an average audience share of 0.95 (totalling 21,050 households). In comparison, the first 15 games of the Rockets' 2011–12 season on Fox Sports Houston had an average audience share of 1.45; network president Matt Hutchings emphasized that "everybody wants the channel. We want them to have it. We just have to find that right deal."
The unavailability of CSN Houston on other major television providers serving Greater Houston, such as DirecTV, Dish Network, Suddenlink Communications, and AT&T U-verse, was controversial. NBCUniversal had demanded rates as high as $3.40 per-subscriber per-month from providers in order to carry the network. In particular, DirecTV CEO Michael White criticized CSN Houston, along with other recently established regional sports networks, for having increasingly high carriage fees that must be passed on to consumers. On April 5, 2013, Houston Mayor Annise Parker invited officials from AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV, and Suddenlink to a summit on expanding carriage of the network. In a bid to improve its carriage, CSN Houston offered a 37-day free preview of the network through May 2013 to providers in the network's region, which also included Time Warner Cable and Suddenlink Communications, along with a number of smaller providers. However, only three small cable companies picked up the network's free preview, and Suddenlink got into further conflicts over the terms regarding the free preview, as the provider refused to offer it carriage outside of Houston itself. In the midst of its eventual bankruptcy, En-Touch—a small provider serving suburbs and outlying cities such as Cypress, Katy, Missouri City, and Sugar Land, threatened to drop CSN Houston due to its high carriage rates not being justified for the amount of programming being offered, and its overall ratings among the provider's customers.
Notable on-air staff
- Matt Bullard (analyst)
- Clyde Drexler (analyst)
- Calvin Murphy (studio analyst)
- Maurice Taylor (occasional studio analyst)
- Bill Brown (play by play)
- Alan Ashby (analyst/fill-in play by play)
- Geoff Blum (analyst)
- Julia Morales (field reporter)
- Art Howe (studio analyst)
- 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)
- "Houston Astros Denied Halt to Network Bankruptcy on Appeal". Bloomberg. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- 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.
- "CSN Houston Chap. 11 Closing Arguments Now Oct. 30". Multichannel News. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
- All systems go for Root launch after CSNH legal hurdles cleared Houston Chronicle, November 6, 2014
- "Root Sports Houston to make Rockets debut on Monday". Ultimate Rockets. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
- "Root Sports Southwest channel debuts Monday". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- Comcast deal expands team’s on-air reach Houston Chronicle, January 30, 2013
- 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
- "EnTouch wants to drop CSN Houston, says it’s not worth the price". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
- "CSNH distribution of Rockets games stuck at 40 percent". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- "CSN Houston stalemate continues; DirecTV CEO bashes high RSN fee requests". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
- Parker invites DirecTV, U-verse and Suddenlink officials to summit meeting on CSN Houston carriage Houston Chronicle, April 10, 2013
- "CSN Houston Reaches Affiliate Deal with Texas Trio". Multichannel News. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
- "Suddenlink, CSN Houston Disagree over Freeview Terms". Multichannel News. Retrieved 14 November 2014.