After months of treading water, there is actual movement in the CSN Houston case. Late last night, a plan was filed by Houston Regional Sports Partnership, Astros leadership, Rockets leadership, and (pause for dramatic effect) AT&T/DIRECTV.
According to David Barron, the Astros and Rockets filed a reorganization plan with Judge Marvin Isgur in advance of a 10 a.m. meeting Thursday. In the plan, AT&T and DIRECTV would split ownership of the network, with AT&T getting 40 percent of the shares and DIRECTV receiving a majority at 60 percent. Neither team nor Comcast would own any percentage of the network under the new structure.
As part of the agreement, Barron says the assumption would be that the regional sports network would join DIRECTV's Root Sports network.
More importantly, the new agreement would triple the market share for Houston's sports, as both DIRECTV and AT&T U-Verse hold about 20 percent of the Houston market each. The lone holdout if this deal is upheld in court would be Dish Network. Don't expect a deal there, either, as the other satellite carrier likely won't jump at the chance to carry a competitor's product.
This is far from over, but according to Barron, if the plan is accepted by Isgur, it could be wrapped up in up to 70 days. That's assuming Comcast doesn't fight the move and no other litigation ties things up for longer. Barron said Thursday morning that there are rumblings the Rockets and Astros could sue Comcast for that $100 million startup cost cash injection.
As Astros fans, what do you need to know?
- First, though the team won't be on this season, barring a very, very quick court process for this reorganization, it does appear that the Astros will be on TV in most of the Houston market by next season.
- Second, we don't know what sort of deal for broadcast rights might be part of this agreement. Will AT&T and DIRECTV hold the Houston teams to their original rights deal with the network, or will they strike new bargains for those rights? My money is on a new deal as part of this thing, which could put Houston close to what the Rangers got from Fox Sports in rights fees.
- Third, with a deal reached, it also appears likely that Houston will increase payroll again this winter. Or, at least, the Astros will have the flexibility to do so if the player makes sense. I don't expect the team to go on a spending spree, but increasing player costs by another $20 million isn't out of the question.
- Lastly, let's remember this. The Astros could be on TV again in most of Houston. This is a good day. It's a day that should have happened two years ago. But, this is still a good day.
Here are some assorted tweets from Barron on the deal from last night and this morning. He is, as always, the best.
The teams apparently also are going to fight Comcast over repayment of the $100m secured loan from Comcast for startup costs.— David Barron (@dfbarron) August 7, 2014
"Plan contemplates the creation of a litigation trust to investigate & potential pursue claims (the teams) could prosecute against Comcast."— David Barron (@dfbarron) August 7, 2014
Disclosure statement opens up possibility that Rockets and Astros will sue Comcast over the failure of CSN Houston.— David Barron (@dfbarron) August 7, 2014
As of this filing, unsecured claims against the HRSN partnership totals $106.5 million.— David Barron (@dfbarron) August 7, 2014
Teams say the new plan will triple household coverage of Houston Regional Sports Network in Houston. DirecTV has 21% of DMA, U-verse 22.7%.— David Barron (@dfbarron) August 7, 2014
Some attorneys have told me it could be at least a month, maybe two, before the Chapter 11 case is resolved.— David Barron (@dfbarron) August 7, 2014
Reorganization plan does not state this specifically, but CSN Houston under this plan apparently would become Root Sports Houston.— David Barron (@dfbarron) August 7, 2014