U-verse Just Keeps Saying "No Thanks" to CSN Houston

Categories: Sports

U-verse just keeps saying "hell no" to the Astros.
There was more news in the CSN Houston debacle last week. And for users of U-verse, that news wasn't good -- for what it's worth, it's probably not very good news for anyone who doesn't have Comcast.

David Barron's got the story up over at the Chronicle, but in essence, the story goes like this: Jim Crane, Les Alexander and Comcast badly misjudged the market when they set their price for the network. And they so misjudged the market that the good folks at AT&T crunched the numbers and discovered just how few people really care about the Astros and Rockets:

"We're not carrying certain regional sports networks in one of our biggest markets," a AT&T spokesman's quoted as saying. "We're not carrying it, and we knew we didn't need to because the data was crystal clear about how intense those viewers were.

"We looked at not just viewership. Everybody can have access to that. We looked at how many of our customers watched zero of those games, one, two, all the way through 150 games for baseball and 80 games for the basketball team that we're talking about, and you could see that if a customer watched 30 games, pick a number, that's a pretty intense viewer, and they are really passionate and the likelihood that they are going to churn goes up.

"We could compare that against a bunch of other teams, and it was very clear that the viewership intensity in that particular market was low, and therefore we didn't need to pay the rates that were asked, and we're not."

The major stumbling block to getting the TV deal done has been the Astros, the party that purportedly set the $3.40 price point that has been the issue. The biggest issue being that this has been a number comparable to what other, higher-profile baseball teams have been getting for their regional networks. But these other networks, primarily the New York Yankees' YES Network, have been able to offer up a few things that CSN Houston has not: an in-demand team that draws big viewership numbers; a winning team with a history of high viewership; a team with a huge national following; and a programming partnership with Fox Sports Net.

CSN Houston offers none of that. There is no in-demand team that historically delivers high numbers. The Astros are not currently a winning team with a huge local, state or national following, and the team is making it known that it won't be competitive for several seasons. And the Rockets offered up a nice season, but when they don't pack the arena on a nightly basis, it's hard to argue that they're must-see TV.

The U-verse folks know this. So do the folks at DirecTV, Dish Network, Time-Warner, etc. They've seen the viewership numbers. They know that there's no number that currently exists supporting what CSN Houston has been requesting. And while it may seem ridiculous that the SEC Network already has a deal worked out with AT&T, it needs to be repeated that the SEC Network will draw huge numbers in the South and in Texas. Numbers that even a World Series Astros team would not approach because the SEC is selling its football games and football sells. Football always sells.

Jim Crane stated a few weeks ago that CSN Houston is having financial difficulties. That certainly won't help the net's bargaining power. But maybe this is a good thing. Maybe it will wake up all of the folks involved in this debacle. The bargaining position's further harmed by CSN Houston not offering up a strong product. There's just no huge demand.

It's easy to make AT&T the bad guy. But the numbers support the decision it made. There's apparently been no mass defection of U-verse users to Comcast or else U-verse might have been a bit more conciliatory, and until people start leaving U-verse in droves for Comcast, U-verse will have no reason to revisit this position.

There could be an easy solution: Maybe CSN Houston just needs to lower its cost demands, request some short-term contract that gives it a chance to prove it can deliver numbers, and hope that in a few years the Astros will actually be competitive and people will be demanding to watch the games.

But there's nothing out there indicating that AT&T is softening its stance, which means no one else is either. That leaves the ever-dwindling number of Astros fans with few options. They can switch to Comcast; then can listen to the amateur-hour radio broadcast; they can find ways to illegally view the games; or they can just do like the rest of Texas is doing -- they can become Rangers fans. And much like the Astros, none of those options is much of a verdict.

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Stevan Ilan Trujillo
Stevan Ilan Trujillo

this deal will never go through. too many suits worried that their already fat fucking pockets wont get padded enough. They have summer homes to pay for yall.

Robert Whitley
Robert Whitley

I have uverse and have one more reason to leave.

MadMac topcommenter

Let's see, Jim Crane owns the Astros. Jim Crane's Astros set the price point and has refused to revisit it. AT&T simply said, the audience isn't there and we're not paying that price. And now, of course, it's all AT&T hate, all the time. I've been very happy with my service but I'd drop it if AT&T raised my monthly rate for a "team," I've never heard of and would never watch. Little league games are free, all over town. 


I'm cancelling my AT&T, which is a bummer because I like the wireless boxes.  Howeva, I cannot abide $200/month bill that doesn't include CSN any longer.  


AT&T has NEVER been about the customer.  They have only been about lying as much as they have to in order to snare the customer, then non-delivering on their promises.  That they claim they have numbers proving people don't watch local sports teams means nothing.


Houston Dynamo are an in-demand team that has historically delivered high numbers. 

gossamersixteen topcommenter

I ditched ATT when my uverse went to $185 a month, for 3 boxes. Been quite happy being a wifi and rabbit ears household, a large part of this decision was the fact that I could no longer watch my home sports teams. Which of course is not ATT's fault per say, I tend to lay the blame solely on Crane, and Concash and their outlandishly greedy tactics. But for what I paid per month I should have been able to see more than 2 Rockets and 2 Astros games this year -- so ATT you lost a customer in large part because of that. And Concash, I'll never accept your lackluster service and dated technology.

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