CSN Houston bankruptcy filing surprises Astros

CSN Houston bankruptcy filing surprises Astros

Affiliates of Comcast/NBC Universal filed an involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition Friday in Houston against Comcast SportsNet Houston, the struggling regional sports network owned by Comcast/NBC Universal, the Rockets and Astros.


The action apparently came as a surprise to the Astros, who are the largest owner in the partnership at 46.384 percent, and said in a statement that they they also had issues with CSN Houston’s failure to pay rights fees to the Astros for the last three months.


The Rockets, who own about 30.923 percent, have no comment on the issue. NBC Universal owns 22.693 percent.


A statement from NBC, however, indicated that the filing may be designed to break up the logjam that has thus far prevented the network from getting widespread carriage on cable and satellite affiliates across its five-state region. Under the company’s governance structure, unanimous consent among the four-member board of directors – two from NBC Universal and one each from the Rockets and Astros – is required for approval, according to comments made by company officials earlier this year.


The NBC Universal statement said the Chapter 11 petition was filed “in order to resolve structural issues affecting CSN Houston’s partnership.”


“This action is necessary to preserve CSN Houston’s ability to provide its valuable programming and reaffirms Comcast/NBC Universal’s commitment to serving the region and its fans,” the statement added.


An NBC Universal spokesman would not elaborate beyond the statement.


In a two-paragraph statement issued Friday night, the Astros indicated that they had issues with the NBC Universal-Rockets-Astros partnership that also could have led to litigation or, at least, potential changes in the partners’ relationship.


“Comcast has improperly filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition in an attempt to prevent the Astros from terminating the Media Rights Agreement between the Astros and Houston Regional Sports Network,” the statement said. “HRSN failed to pay the Astros media rights fees in July, August and September, and we have invested additional money in order to keep the network viable through our season.


“Despite not receiving our media rights fees, our objective has not changed. We will continue to work toward obtaining full carriage so that all of our fans are able to watch the Astros games while making sure that the Astros are able to compete for championships.”


HSRN is the partnership between the Astros and Rockets that was established in the early 2000s for the teams to market their media rights. The teams at one point attempted to start a regional sports network in 2003 before reaching a new rights deal with Fox Sports Southwest that expired last year.


The network will remain on the air while the Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedure is resolved. Chapter 11 is designed to allow companies to remain in business while their business activities are reorganized.

CSN Houston is available in only about 40 percent of Houston’s 2.2 million TV households and has…Continued here: http://blog.chron.com/sportsupdate/2013/09/bankruptcy-petition-filed-on-behalf-of-comcast-sportsnet-houston/?cmpid=hpbn

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