With that said, I'm afraid I'm going to have to take the Astros' business office to the proverbial woodshed ... again. It really seems that for every positive move the business side has made, they have taken two giant leaps backward in other ways.
Today, Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle tweeted out a link to this piece from David Barron, also of the Chronicle. I'm well aware that the new Astros/Rockets regional sports network, CSN Houston, is not available to 60% of Houston viewing households since I am a DirecTV subscriber. What galls me about the article is the characterization by CSN President Matt Hutchings and Astros President George Postolos that DirecTV (and by implication, Dish Network and U-Verse) is being unreasonable and that CSN Houston only wants what is fair.
Let's look at a few facts. First of all, this Reuters article gives us an idea of what some of the monthly subscriber fees are which are currently being charged by various regional sports networks. Keep in mind that CSN Houston is asking for $3.40 per month per subscriber and is requiring that the network be placed on the basic level tier. It was reported that the previous fee charged by FSN Houston was estimated at $2.50 per subscriber per month.
- YES Network (Yankees and Nets) - $2.99 per month
- Time Warner Sportsnet (Lakers and Galaxy) - $3.95 per month for some subscribers/reportedly $3.40 for DirecTV
- Fox Sports North (Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Wild, Gophers and Lynx) - $3.68 per month (the most expensive of all the Fox regional sports networks)
Next, let's look at ratings information.
- The Yes Network, currently $2.99 per month for subscribers, has been the most watched RSN for 10 straight years.
- Time Warner Sportsnet, currently reported to be $3.40 per month for DirecTV subscribers, features the top TV draw in the NBA as the Laker's ratings from last year show.
- Fox Sports North has the highest subscription rate of all, but includes football, hockey, the WNBA and college sports in addition to baseball and basketball. I wasn't able to find specific ratings information, but the above link shows that the Timberwolves had one of the fastest growing viewerships last season.
It is unfortunate for Jim Crane that he purchased the Astros at a time when the team (and its viewership) has reached such a low point. In a better year, he would have much more leverage in these negotiations. In any event, I really cannot see how DirecTV is being unreasonable unless they are making other demands of which I am unaware. DirecTV most likely fails to see the value in charging ALL of its subscribers almost a dollar a month more than it did for FSN Houston so that 1092 average households can watch a Sunday game in September. I simply do not see how $3.40 per month, which would be one of the highest fees charged for an RSN, constitutes fair market value, and apparently DirecTV agrees with me.
Crane is responsible to his ownership group to get the best offer he can get with the holdouts. I understand that and I can respect that. But he cannot allow the situation to continue into the season. It is difficult enough to be an Astros fan right now. The Astros front office is threatening to make it more difficult. In addition to the threat of no televised games to 60% of Houston households, there is still no radio team in place with only 34 days to go until the first Spring Training game.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, will it make a sound? If a game is broadcast to no one, will there be anyone left to hear it when it is finally broadcast to someone?