Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) NBCUniversal subsidiary filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition on Friday aimed at letting it take full ownership of Comcast SportsNet Houston, the regional sports network controlled by the Houston Astros.
AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ), DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) and Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) have refused to carry CSN Houston since it launched in October 2012. That has made it difficult to pay its bills, including rights fees owed to the Astros and the Houston Rockets NBA franchise. The Astros criticized Comcast for the filing. It accused the MSO of preventing the team from terminating its contract with CSN Houston--a move which would allow it to sell rights to its baseball games to another network. The team also confirmed that it hasn't received payments from CSN Houston for three months.
Comcast and NBCU said in the bankruptcy filing that disputes among CSN's owners have resulted in "total gridlock," according to the Houston Chronicle. Comcast and NBCU, which currently own a 22 percent stake in CSN Houston, told the court they would be willing to buy full ownership of the network. The Houston Rockets also own a minority stake in CSN Houston.
"It is clear that the network cannot operate its business or preserve itself as a going concern under its current corporate governance structure, which has resulted in an irreconcilable impasse," Comcast and NBCU wrote in the bankruptcy filing.
Multichannel providers such as Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and DirecTV have also struck deals in the last year to launch or acquire regional sports networks. With the number of clashes related to the costs of sports programming continuing to increase, other regional sports networks could face challenges similar to those of CSN Houston if they are unable to secure distribution deals that put their networks in the majority of pay TV homes.
- the Houston Chronicle has this story
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