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Annise Parker Calls for CSN Houston Summit

by: Michael Hurta

Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM CDT

Since our tax dollars tend to heavily support the sports we love, it was only a matter of time before a politician waded into a battle for getting one of Texas's exclusive sports channels onto constituents' televisions. Mayor Annise Parker took a stand today on behalf of Houston sports fans.

The Burnt Orange Report readers who root for a Houston team or two may be frustrated that they cannot see their favorite baseball, football, or soccer team on television.

The Houston Rockets, the Houston Astros, and NBC Sports started a Houston-based sports network six months ago, the Comcast Sports Network - Houston, and the network shows Houston Dynamo games, as well. But the network is available only on Comcast, owned by NBC. Comcast does not even cover a majority of Houston (not to mention Austin or other nearby markets with fans).

Mayor Parker, hoping to help remedy the situation, today called for a summit with the local television providers and CSN Houston. Read on to learn about the proposed summit and its chances of success.

From the Houston Chronicle article:

Mayor Annise Parker has asked officials of DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and Suddenlink Communications to meet in Houston with her and with officials with Comcast SportsNet Houston to discuss a solution to the unresolved carriage negotiations between providers and the Rockets- and Astros-owned network.

In Parker's one page-letter, dated April 5, the mayor said she was requesting the meeting "on behalf of the millions that passionately root for our Houston teams."

"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 Houston have unfolded," Parker wrote. "That said, as the Rockets push toward the NBA playoffs and the Astros and Dynamo seasons get underway, the situation is intolerable."

Parker last month also described as "intolerable" the impasse between the providers and CSN Houston, the six-month-old regional sports network that airs Rockets, Astros and Dynamo games and is owned by the Major League Baseball and NBA teams and the NBC Sports Group.

All parties have agreed in principle to a meeting.

It's nothing but good news for fans that the mayor is getting involved in CSN Houston, but it's unclear how much her summit can move the needle. If the Longhorn Network is any indication, adding providers to an exclusive and local sports channel will be a slow and long haul. The differences, however, between the Longhorn Network (which only shows two or three games for its flagship sport, Football) and CSN Houston (which shows a majority of games for three sports) may make a difference.

Unfortunately, a window may be closing for a deal. The Rockets are finally a playoff team again, but their regular season is almost done. And before this season, both the Astros and Rockets teams fared poorly, which effected their television ratings. Or, as AT&T puts it: an "historical lack of viewership of Rockets and Astros games." And the Astros, meanwhile aren't getting good again until next year, and that's if one's a mighty optimist.

But Parker may still find opportunity to place political pressure on each party. If nothing else, the popular mayor is up for reelection this November. I imagine there aren't many issues as popular as getting everyone's favorite sports teams onto their television sets. If anyone's in a position to flood each of these parties with bad press, it's Annise Parker.

If Houstonians can't watch their teams for too much longer, I imagine other politicians will join in, too. If the corporations involved think their PR is bad now, they should wait until a major city's bipartisan set of politicians agrees on one thing: to yell at them.  

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