The mess that has been going on with CSN Houston in the year it's been active has included less than half of the households in the Houston area receiving the network, absurdly high carriage fees, a bankruptcy filing, and now, accusations of Comcast fabricating the bankruptcy filing to bully the Astros into doing what the cable behemoth wants.
The Houston Chronicle had a very interesting update to the story, featuring quotes from the Astros claiming that not only did Comcast try to buy out the team's ownership stake in the network, but that the club also lent the fledgling network money in May and June to keep it financially solvent.
Astros owner Jim Crane claims that the club was supposed to receive roughly $50 million in rights fees from CSN Houston this year, but ended up receiving less than half of that. Crane and Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe also claimed that the only creditor the network has is the team, and that Comcast made the filing without speaking to the Houston Regional Sports Network (which controls the rights for both the Astros and Rockets) about the debts owed.
Here's where things get interesting: because the Astros hadn't been paid rights fees in three months, they should have been able to acquire their rights back from Comcast and go in a different direction to distribute their games. The bankruptcy filing has blocked the Astros' attempt to do that, and has put them between a rock and a hard place, leading to their motion to dismiss the bankruptcy filing. The arguments to dismiss will be held on October 28th.
What a mess. Crane's mindset is that the bankruptcy filing is a ploy for Comcast to take over full control of the network and reach agreements that aren't beneficial to the Astros going forward. With the way TV rights fees have increased in recent years, Crane's viewpoint makes sense, especially when you consider how large of a market Houston is and how much a below market deal could hurt them as they enter the next phase of their rebuilding process.
I had a feeling back when I saw that they couldn't reach a deal with any major provider that things with this network were going to end badly. It really has bothered me that I couldn't watch the Rockets exciting young team this last season, and I used to watch the Astros all the time, even as a bad team, but now that I haven't been able to, I'm not as interested in trying to find a link online, because it's annoying having to watch it in this desk chair on a small screen. The sooner the teams can get away from this network, the better. This was a terrible experiment gone wrong.
If this is accurate, then we could very well see the return of Fox Sports Houston. I realize that Comcast Houston was started so the Astros and Rockets could have some ownership in the network, but they probably would prefer being with a partner that has been friendly to them in the past over one trying to take everything away from them.