How the CSN Houston Broadcast Map Dooms the Network


csn_stretch.jpg
How about a little CSN Houston geography lesson?

It's a huge footprint, and one the Astros, one of the network owners, wants very much to keep. But there's a slight problem. The NBA defines its markets a bit differently. It divides Texas into three markets split between the Rockets, Spurs, and Mavericks. The state of Oklahoma gets the Thunder, and to Louisiana goes the Pelicans. While Astros games can air over the entire footprint, the Rockets are essentially limited to a sliver of the map along the coast of Texas -- even with games airing on a different regional sports network than that of the Mavericks or Spurs, Rockets games may not be broadcast into their territory -- unlike with MLB where the Astros and Rangers share the map and can air in the other's market.

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This is not the projected CSN Houston map, but it's not too far off
Thus the statements from DirecTV saying it's not fair to make the people of San Antonio pay for a product (the Rockets) they can't watch. There has been discussion in the past about CSN Houston adopting tiered-pricing that would have the people in the outer regions pay less for the network than those in Houston, and there was supposedly some talk that the Astros were amenable to this. But that aside, why would, why should people in El Paso be required to subsidize a network with a primary focus on sports centered on Houston and the immediate area around Houston?

For it's faults -- a Dallas-centric focus -- Fox Sports Southwest is able to offer continuous programming to most of its map that features the pro teams that have been assigned to that market by the leagues. So El Paso gets to watch Phoenix Suns games. Laredo gets the Spurs, Tulsa the Thunder. All markets get the Rangers and the Dallas Stars, and a steady diet of Big 12 sports. But CSN Houston can offer only the Astros, Dynamo, select C-USA, AAC, and Southland Conference college events while the Rockets are blacked out for most of the footprint.

The Astros essentially need carriage by all providers across the entire network for there to be a chance at economic success. And the network needs to be on the same basic cable channel tier as the ESPN stable of networks, the Turner Networks, Fox Sports Net, the NFL Network, and the MLB Network, but it can't offer the reach and depth of programming as those networks. ESPN was able to get carriage for The Longhorn Network by offering it at a very-low cost, and with the costs for carriage of the other ESPN networks subsidizing its losses -- FOX had to do much of the same thing to get carriage for Fox Sports 1. But there is no other affiliated network that can make up for offering CSN Houston at a highly-discounted price or that could be used to leverage a provider into carrying the network on a basic tier.

CSN Houston offers an ill-advised, poorly-conceived network footprint that makes absolutely zero sense for its product. Yet the Catch-22 is that, for the network to come close to any success, it needs carriage across this entire nonsensically designed footprint at non-highly discounted carriage rates to come close to success. The result is bankruptcy, lawsuits, fans in the core of the market who are shut out from viewing, and worse, the loss of interest of the casual fan.

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6 comments
Jon Huffman
Jon Huffman

Thanks mlb for turning everyone into the Milwaukee brewers nice job.

conatonc
conatonc

The 5-state coverage area may have made sense in the '70s and '80s, but now it seems like a ridiculous overreach to assume that there's enough Astros interest in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and freaking New Mexico to try and install the channel on their basic cable packages. And the limits of the Rockets' coverage area vs. the Astros makes the whole channel seem like a terrible idea from its inception.

GlenW
GlenW

Boy, did they ever fuck up.

big.red.guy
big.red.guy

There is no question that this network is killing interest in the Astros as fast as their pitiful recent record is. If they go 2 entire seasons off local television, it will cripple the team for years. 

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