Bad news, Astros fans. According to this latest article by David Barron in the Houston Chronicle, adding Dwight Howard to the Rockets won't be the straw that break's this negotiating camel's back. In fact, the end might not be in sight for years:
SNL Kagan predicts CSN Houston will be unable to strike carriage deals until 2014 with Suddenlink, which services the Kingwood area and dozens of other markets across the five-state area, and 2015 with DirecTV. No projection was given for U-verse, and SNL Kagan said a deal with Dish Network is "unlikely," given its current stance on subscriber fees with regional sports networks.
As always, it's worth reading all of Barron's article for more info and tidbits. He lays out a pretty compelling case as to why the network may not reach a deal any time soon. Of course, Tad Brown was quoted in the Barron article as saying a deal will get done and Jim Crane has been quoted similarly in the past.
Right now, though, things still appear to be at an impasse.
Oh, and did I mention that the Astros have posted the worst TV ratings in baseball since 2008?
A report from Sports Business Journal (subscription only) indicates the Astros' ratings are down 66 percent from last season. That drop-off corresponds perfectly with the lack of a deal between CSN Houston and cable providers like U-verse, DirecTV and Dish Network. The inability to strike a deal has affected both the Astros and the Rockets, who are part owners in the channel. Neither team has been seen outside Comcast and several smaller carriers since the channel's inception last fall.
Things are bleak on the TV front right now. Reading all the information that has come out this week, my prediction right now is that if a deal gets done before October, it means the principles in CSN Houston agree to be put on a sports tier instead of being carried on the basic package in the coverage area.
That's a pretty big blow to the potential subscriber base in the network and has to be seen as a last resort. Which is why it very likely won't happen. So, Astros fans without Comcast may not see Houston play until 2014 or later.