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CSN Houston and George Postolos: Did the network bring down the CEO?

Postolos was a driving force behind the launch of Houston's new regional sports network. Was the inability to get carriage deals done the reason he's no longer with the Astros?

Bob Levey

George Postolos has been entwined with Houston's new regional sports network (RSN) for a long time. He started work on it when he was still with the Rockets and has continued to be involved in the deal since he was given the title of president and CEO of the Astros after he helped Jim Crane acquire the Astros.

On Monday, that entanglement may have been his undoing.

We want 100 percent distribution. That is our goal. It is in our economic interests and in the long-term interests of the teams. -George Postolos

Postolos stepped down as Houston's CEO on Monday, as the Astros close in on a .250 winning percentage and still have no cable deals in sight for 60 percent of the nation's fourth largest city.

If the CEO has been integral to the station's launch and negotiations keep missing deadline after deadline, who's going to be held responsible?

First, though, let's ask just how involved was Postolos in the negotiations and should he be blamed for not having a deal done with all those major cable providers?

Postolos talked to David Barron back in January about the deal.

"We just want our fair market rate for the service," he said. "If you want to redefine or remake or break the market for regional sports networks, we would rather you do that in some market other than Houston. We want to be partners with all the major distributors. We want 100 percent distribution. That is our goal. It is in our economic interests and in the long-term interests of the teams."

When CSN Houston offered a somewhat unprecedented free trial to all cable systems who didn't have carriage deals set up, Postolos was still upbeat:

"We are pleased that CSN Houston is offering its service free of charge to television providers across the five-state region," said Astros President & CEO George Postolos. "The Astros want to be on television in every household. This offers at least a temporary fix as CSN Houston and the providers work towards a permanent agreement. We hope the providers agree to CSN's offer."

Fair market deals. That's a recurring theme of Postolos' on the matter, like in this quote from KHOU in Houston:

"They have to agree to pay a fair market rate for CSN, that’s really what’s necessary for the long term success of the Houston Astros and the Houston Rockets," said Astros president George Postolos.

And yet, rumors swirled that Postolos was a bigger stumbling block in the negotiations than he let on. A report in the Houston Press said that Postolos and the Astros scuttled a deal back when the Rockets were still in the regular season because it didn't make sense:

It has been assumed for some time now that no final deals would be made until the Astros games were threatened. If the Astros did indeed block the Rockets from making a deal with DirecTV, it is easy to see why many believed no deals would be done until Astros games were on the chopping block.

If true, it would be an ironic turn of events for the Rockets. Astros team president George Postolos, who held the same position with the Rockets until 2006, was one of the first to trumpet the idea of a joint network between the Rockets and the Astros in the late 1990s when he was still with the Rockets. Now, as the head of the Astros, he could be the person preventing his former team and employer from airing their games to the majority of Houstonians, which has been an embarrassment to the Rockets, particularly with the All Star game being played in Houston this year.

Why now? Why did Postolos take the fall for these negotiations at this point?

Two things could possibly be causing this. First up, we've got an interesting wrinkle with this new front office. Instead of having one team owner to worry about, like the Astros had under Drayton McLane, this new ownership group has a board of director it is beholden to. They're made up of the other investors who came on board with Crane when he bought the team.

Postolos doesn't just answer to Crane; he answers to that group too. With Houston going six weeks into the season with no movement in negotiations on any front, I'm sure some pointed questions were asked of Postolos.

Secondly, after a free trial of CSN Houston was accepted by none of the major TV carriers, things probably turned worse for Postolos in these negotiations.

Was he entirely responsible for not having a deal done?

No, that's too much to lay at the feet of one person. CSN Houston itself is negotiating with plenty of groups. The Rockets also have a say in how things are handled. But, as one of the men behind the plan from the beginning, Postolos should shoulder some of the blame.

Does this mean that negotiations will turn around and deals will fall into place quickly? Only time will tell. If it does, you can be sure Postolos will be taken to task much more for blocking things over these last two months than he is right now.