Most fans of the Houston Astros have not seen their team on television in two years. The Comcast SportsNet Houston fiasco blocked the Astros from TV for everyone except about 40% of the local Houston market after the 2012 season, leaving a huge part of the fan base in the dark. Astros fans in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arkansas cannot view most games on television, and it does not appear this will change any time soon.
Although the new television deal will bring the Astros to more Houston homes, those outside of Houston will be frozen out for the third straight year. The new deal will allow Houston subscribers to DirecTV, AT&T, and Comcast to see Astros games, but will exclude customers of Time Warner Cable (one of the largest cable TV providers) and MLB TV, along with other smaller companies.
“The agreement between the parties who own CSN (Astros, Rockets and Comcast) requires unanimous approval on any deals, approval the Astros and owner Jim Crane refused to give.”
Astros owner Jim Crane and team President Reid Ryan would have us believe the cable companies are at fault, however that is disputed. An article written in December 2013 by Jeff Balke on Houston Press.com, Latest CSN Developments Could Lead to New TV Deals, claimed:
“As we first reported early this year, the Astros were primarily responsible for keeping CSN from making deals with providers not named Comcast. The agreement between the parties who own CSN (Astros, Rockets and Comcast) requires unanimous approval on any deals, approval the Astros and owner Jim Crane refused to give.”
Ryan told me in response to a question I posed via Twitter, which appeared in Conversation With Astros President Reid Ryan, in April 2014:
“It has nothing to do with our choice. MLB Network is always blacked out unless local RSN [Regional Sports Network] agrees to lift it… Astros market is Texas, OK, LA, NM and AR. Until carriers (directtv, TW, Dish, etc.) pick up CSN, games will be blacked out.”
According to the Jeff Balke article, Crane also blamed former Astros owner Drayton McLane: “… claiming they lied to him when he purchased the team regarding CSN’s worth and deals that were made that stifled negotiations with other providers.”
An article by Sean Pendergast in November 2014, What Houston Lost to Finally Get the Rockets and Astros on TV Again, stated:
Apr 2, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros owner Jim Crane stands on the field before a game against the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
“Providers such as AT&T, DirecTV and Dish Network have refused to cave to what they see as excessive subscriber fee demands, leaving that aforementioned 60 percent of the city unable to watch the Rockets, the Astros, the Dynamo and the rest of CSN Houston’s critically acclaimed content.”
It should be noted that CSN Houston is no more, ending their 16-time Emmy nominated programming in October 2014, to be replaced by Root Sports Network.
It doesn’t matter who is to blame for the dearth of Astros games on television; the problem is no one seems willing or able to fix it. I understand the need for Crane to make the best deal, and that includes making as much money as he can. However, alienating the fan base is not in his best interests.
For Astros fans, what it comes down to is this: Jim Crane’s problem is not their problem; they want to watch their team on television. This is not insurmountable for Crane and his people; they have the power to fix it, and they need to do it now.
Forget about blame, Mr. Crane. Bring the Astros back to the fans that support them.