Who's Got the Best Shot at CSN Houston: NBC Sports Group, AT&T or Fox Sports?

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Photo by Reggie Bibbs
Still the best way to see an Astros game. Or wait out a court decision.
It's been a little more than three months since Judge Marvin Isgur put CSN Houston into bankruptcy. It's been nearly three months since the Houston Astros appealed that ruling to Judge Lynn Hughes. Hughes has received the parties' briefs on the bankruptcy ruling, and he's attempted multiple times to mediate a settlement. But so far he's issued no ruling on the appeal, and there's been no settlement.

CSN Houston's still on the air, still broadcasting Astros games over a network that very few people can watch. The ratings are small, and while people used to be frustrated about this, most no longer care. Isgur continues issuing the necessary orders to keep the network's lights on and employees paid, but otherwise, there's no change. The Astros bleed money. The Rockets bleed money. All of the people owed money by the network are left in impotent rages.

So the clown show continues, seemingly waiting in vain for the adults to supposedly start acting like adults. This all needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. This is about more than carriage and which corporate entity screwed over which corporate entity. There are real lives at stake, real paychecks for studio crew and anchors and camera people. It's about more than just how much money Jim Crane's losing, it's about how much money contractors are still owed, contractors who depend on this money for rent and utilities and equipment.

John Ourand with the Sports Business Journal reported last week that three companies were maneuvering to pick up the media rights of the Astros and Rockets. The rights deals for both teams would be significantly less than what they were to earn under the CSN Houston deal, but then again, they're not making anything off of that deal now, so any money would have to be an improvement.

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Could AT&T be the savior of CSN Houston?
The companies are NBC Sports Group, AT&T and Fox Sports. The NBC Sports Group deal would keep the network alive and not guarantee any additional carriage. The AT&T deal would probably kill the network while starting another, and any deal with Fox Sports would once again make both teams the ugly stepchildren to the Rangers and Mavericks.

Any deal would require the approval of Isgur, but it's likely he would approve the deal in that either of them would allow the Astros and Rockets, two of the partners in the network, to at least recoup some of the money they've lost. Approval of the deal would likely bring about a settlement in the bankruptcy. Debts would be paid at pennies on the dollar for a lucky few. And Jim Crane would undoubtedly continue his lawsuit against Drayton McLane.


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