Applying the Three True Outcomes to the CSN Houston Fiasco
The Houston Astros are in week two of the regular season. The Houston Rockets regular season is quickly coming to an end. This makes for two years that the Rockets games have not been available for most Houston viewers, and it's the start of the second year that Astros games mostly haven't been available. And neither the Astros nor Rockets are receiving their media rights fees because CSN Houston is bankrupt.
Photo by Marco Torres With no CSN deal yet, this is the only way some people can see an Astros game.
The parties gathered for mediation with Judge Lynn Hughes two weeks ago. They had further mediation discussions this past Monday, and there is a scheduling order requesting the parties return to the judge's chambers for mediation on Friday morning. The parties aren't talking, so who knows what's going on in these discussions, though the fact that mediation talks continue should give some cause for optimism.
This whole fiasco has been hashed and rehashed time and time again since the involuntary bankruptcy filing, and before that, since the time the network went on air. But let's take a look at this in a new way, applying the baseball thinking known as the three true outcomes of strikeout, walk, and home run.
Like a Chris Carter at-bat, the strikeout is the most likely scenario for CSN Houston, which means the network will cease to exist. This will come about because the parties cannot agree to a workable business plan to guide the network through bankruptcy, leaving only one alternative: going out of business.
The Astros and Rockets will regain their media rights, and odds are they will shop them out to the highest bidder, more than likely resulting in a return to Fox Sports Southwest. But with little leverage and an awful product (from the Astros), these rights fees will likely not match what the parties were supposed to get from CSN Houston or what they would have received several years ago, back before CSN Houston came into being.
Neither of the teams will receive all of what they're owed in unpaid rights fees from the shuttered network. Network employees will be out of work (the team broadcasters will stay with the teams on the new network). And odds are, as part of getting money owed to them by the network, the Astros will drop Comcast from its fraud lawsuit against Drayton McLane.
As with a Chris Carter at-bat, this is the least likely scenario. But there is a slight possibility, so...
There has been talk of another entity like DirecTV or U-Verse buying a share of the network, or buying out one of the parties. DirecTV owns several Regional Sports Networks throughout the country (the ROOT sports networks are owned by Direct TV and affiliated with Fox Sports Net), and back before the formation of CSN Houston and the partnership with Comcast, there were rumors that DirecTV was interested in forming a network with the teams. Since the bankruptcy, there have been continued rumors of DirecTV angling for an ownership stake as part of bailing out the network. This would get both teams on the air throughout most of Houston, and with DirecTV and Comcast airing the network, U-Verse and the other minor cable companies would have no choice but to sign up for carriage deals.