Last season, the Houston Astros had the lowest ratings on local television of any of the 30 teams in baseball. Reaching an average of 8000 households last year, the Astros games reached the fewest viewers by an average of almost 20,000 households. Their ratings, at 0.35, were more than half those of the next lowest mark.
While the Astros have struggled over the past few seasons, those struggles were not necessarily why ratings have suffered. The home channel for the Astros, Comcast SportsNet Houston, was not exactly widely available. On September 27, 2013, NBCUinversal and Comcast filed bankruptcy, seeking to reorganize the network. Naturally, this angered the Astros, who had claimed that they had not received any of the rights fees for the previous three months, were understandably angered.
Finally, there appears to be progress in the saga of Comcast SportsNet Houston. On Thursday, federal bankruptcy judge Marvin Isgur approved a reorganization plan to allow AT&T and DirecTV to purchase the network, relaunching it as Root Sports Houston.
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However, this does not mark the end of the story. Comcast is appealing the decision, claiming that there were six different errors in the ruling. Naturally, with the money at stake, Judge Isgur is urging both parties to reach an agreement, and soon.
Should the purchase be allowed to take place, the Astros would finally be able to get in front of a wider audience. No longer exclusive to Comcast, Root Sports Houston would be available on both DirecTV and U-Verse, AT&T’s digital television provider. Such a move could bring the Astros increased revenue from advertising, potentially helping the Astros to fill their holes in both the bullpen and in the infield.
With free agency set to begin soon, having the fate of Comcast SportsNet Houston settled as soon as possible could have a major impact upon the Astros plans in free agency. Even though the Astros should be fairly active in free agency, especially in the reliever market, having that possible extra revenue could help.
The Astros network problems have come a step closer to being solved. Hopefully, it happens sooner rather than later.