Cable Operators

Houston, We Have a Sports Net

7/16/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Eleven weeks away from launching the newest
NBC Sports regional network, preparation
is heating up like the Houston summer.

Scheduled to tip off Oct. 1, Comcast
SportsNet Houston is building its executive
team, firming up programming, pushing toward
on-air talent decisions and engaging in
carriage conversations.

A venture of Major League Baseball’s Houston
Astros, the National Basketball Association’s
Rockets and NBC Sports Group, the
RSN will be the 10th to fly the CSN banner.

Along with at least 200 pro-team games
— 65 for the Rockets and 135 Astros contests,
plus ancillary programming — the startup
secured simulcast rights to eleven Conference
USA college football games.

It’s also firming up ties with other colleges
and high schools in its five-state territory of
Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and
the southeast corner of New Mexico.

Matthew Hutchings, president and general
manager, said the Conference USA pact —
bringing games involving SMU, Tulsa, Tulane
and Texas-El Paso — also should enhance interest
in the service from distributors outside
the Houston DMA.

Houston is the 10th-largest
TV market, with 2.19 million TV
homes, and Comcast has about
50% of the multichannel-video
market.

Hutchings would not disclose
the asking price for the service within the Houston
DMA, within Texas or in outer regions.

Fox Sports Houston — which previously aired Astros
and Rockets games — has an
estimated monthly license fee
of $2.50 per subscriber in Houston.
Comcast SportsNet Houston
figures to have a rate card
north of that.

Hutchings said network reps are in “active discussions
with everyone, and the conversations have been positive.”

The network is said to be close to
signing on with several local carriers
within the five-state region.

Hutchings, a Houston native
who has returned home from RSN
Altitude Sports in Denver, also is
planning a significant on-air and
digital news presence at the new
network.

“We’re going to provide the most
in-depth coverage of the Rockets
and Astros ever, given the access
we have through our partners,”
Hutchings said last week. “Our
programming pillars also call for
us to super-serve fans with college
and high-school programming in
the region and with comprehensive
news, opinion and analysis of
all the sports developments in the
area.”

CSN Houston plans a live daily
talk show at 5 p.m. and sportsnews
coverage that includes three
live shows daily: at 6 p.m., after
post-game coverage and a midnight
round-up edition.

Building toward a staff of 125, the
network has hired Timothy Brown
as vice president of production and executive producer,
Joseph Ward as VP of operations and engineering, Donna
White as VP of finance and human resources and Helen
Wilson as VP of marketing.

Brown, who has 30 years’ experience, also has deep
roots in Houston media, having covered the Astros and
Rockets since HSE’s launch in 1983 and then with FS
Southwest and FS Houston.

September