Houston Mayor Annise Parker is looking for a solution to the impasse between Comcast SportsNet (CSN) and pay TV carriers AT&T U-verse, DirecTV, and Suddenlink, which has left Houston sports fans in limbo for the past 6 months. Much of the NBA season is gone while the MLB season on the verge of starting, as Houston’s dominant pay TV providers have refused to agree on Comcast’s terms for broadcast rights.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way when the new network, which is owned by the Houston Rockets and Astros as well as Comcast, was launched late last year. The wait has been intolerable for Houston sports fans, who cannot just switch providers for many reasons. Comcast doesn’t serve all of Houston, and many customers are locked into their contracts and may face a hefty cancellation fee.
Parker wrote a letter requesting a sit down between the sports network and AT&T, DirecTV, and Suddenlink, stating: “The proud followers of our Houston teams – many of whom have paid for the venues where the Astros, Dynamo and Rockets compete – have been patient as your negotiations with Comcast SportsNet (CSN) Houston have unfolded. That said, as the Rockets push toward the NBA playoffs and the Astros and Dynamo seasons get underway, the situation is intolerable.”
CSN Houston president and GM Matt Hutchings released an official statement, saying: “We are more than willing to sit down with the Mayor and decision makers from each of the providers and work toward a resolution.”
However, it won’t be easy to reach a deal since pay TV providers have been putting the brakes on what they consider to be “overpriced” sports networks. In a tight economy, the last thing anybody needs are rising monthly bills—which is the easiest rationalization for cord cutting. On the other hand, CSN Houston wants the same terms other regional sports networks receive from the providers. It seems that it is only now that pay TV providers are drawing the line in the sand over what networks deserve basic tier inclusion and which ones will be included in a separate pay tier.
For their part, DirecTV, AT&T, and Suddenlink are more than willing to meet with the mayor and hash it out with CSN. Hopefully, a deal will be worked out so Houston sports fans don’t have to suffer.