CSN Houston, Bankruptcy and Why the Rockets Aren't Just Innocent Victims
Odds are that if you've flown an airline in the past decade, you've flown on an airline going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This is the popular bankruptcy, the one that lets the airline stay in business and keep flying while attempting to come up with a profitable business plan. You're also probably well aware of the awful customer service from the employees who are worried about layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and loss of pension benefits while the execs who caused the bankruptcy get golden parachutes.
Don't expect the Rockets or Astros on your TV anytime soon
The result is a generally crappy airline that you keep flying because you have no choice while hoping that the company that emerges from bankruptcy has better management, a better plan and happier employees. And that's where CSN Houston is right now. The employees are worried about jobs, original programming might get cut and the executives who made this all happen are figuring out how they can profit.
Looking back, it was easy to tell that the network was doomed. Comcast wasn't exactly popular in Houston. The partner with the biggest ownership interest (Astros) was fielding an awful product that had destroyed fan interest throughout the viewing region. The required viewing footprint for the Astros and Rockets was different (the Astros wanting five states, the Rockets stuck in a sliver of Texas). And the operating structure was set up so that all parties had to agree to any contract, meaning that the Rockets could work out a deal to get the network carried on Direct TV only to have the Astros kill the deal if they didn't think the terms were good enough.
Then Drayton McLane and Comcast allegedly oversold the value of the network to Jim Crane (thus resulting in the fraud suit filed against them by Crane), which was a big deal since the network accounted for a large part of Crane's cost to buy the Astros. At the same time the non-Comcast satellite and cable providers seemed intent on gutting the network as part of some stand against rising RSN carriage fees.
With no other carriage deals than the one with Comcast worked out, the network could not make money. With the Astros threatening to reclaim their media rights from the network due to the network's inability to pay the media rights fees, the network was pushed into bankruptcy court, where for several months the parties have been fighting with each other over whether the network would actually be declared bankrupt.
Throughout this process the Houston Rockets have generally been seen as the innocent party, working hard to make deals happen only to have them vetoed by the greedy Astros (for what it's worth, the Astros told the court that only one carriage deal had been presented for approval, and that was in April of 2013). And it's the Rockets who have taken the lead since November, doing everything possible to work out some kind of deal to get the Astros and Rockets on TV. But briefs filed late last week by the Astros and Comcast make the Rockets out to be anything but innocent victims.