Root Sports Southwest is live and available to more than 4 million homes in the Houston area.
The regional sports network, owned by AT&T U-verse and DirecTV, which is being operated by the DBS leader, tipped off at 6 a.m. (CT) with a poker show and will present its first Houston Rockets NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies at 7 p.m. (CT).
Root Sports Southwest is the successor to Comcast Sports Houston, which AT&T and DirecTV bought out of bankruptcy. The RSN, the fourth under DirecTV Sports Networks portfolio -- Rocky Mountain, Pittsburgh and Northwest -- will also televise games and related programming from MLB’s Houston Rockets.
Root Sports Southwest, which is being carried by AT&T and DirecTV, which are awaiting federal approval of their proposed, as well as Comcast, is available to more than 4 million homes in and around Houston. DirecTV said that’s up from under 1 million for CSN Houston, which was only carried by Comcast and a handful of smaller providers.
Root Sports Southwest is positioned on U-verse channels 758 in standard-definition and 1758 in the high-definition format, while DirecTV subs can find it on channel 674. Local Comcast cable customers will see Root Sports Southwest in place of CSN Houston on channels 39 in SD and 639 in HD. The new network’s programming schedule is available on www.rootsports.com.
“We know these past two years have been tough for many Rockets and Astros fans who couldn’t cheer on their teams while sitting in front of their TVs at home,” said Patrick Crumb, president of DirecTV Sports Networks. “So we welcome this opportunity to work with the teams and the talented, passionate Houston-based network staff to deliver a high quality, innovative sports network that millions more families can enjoy.”
“This is a great day for Houston sports fans,” said Aaron Slator, president, content development, AT&T. “Together with DIRECTV Sports Networks, we're excited to be able to offer Root Sports Southwest and bring the Rockets and Astros back into the homes of our U-verse customers.”
The launch of Root Sports Southwest follows 14 months of chapter 11 wrangling. Under the reorganization plan, the Astros (46%), Rockets (31%) and Comcast (23%) lost their network equity positons, and the teams agreed to forego payment of more than $100 million in unpaid rights fees. DirecTV and AT&T bought the RSN for $5,000.
For its part, Comcast, through a financial appeal, is still trying to recoup more of the $100 million secured loan that was earmarked for CSN Houston's start-up costs, including a studio build-out and the teams' rights fees. The bankruptcy court ruled it could only receive $26 million of that total.
With a reported $4 per month per subscriber ask within its central area, and 70 cents elsewhere, CSN never collected enough affiliate revenue to pay the clubs their rights fees and meet its other obligations. Among those sitting on the sideline were AT&T, DirecTV, Suddenlink, Charter, Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOS. The RSN’s TV territory extends throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and eastern New Mexico.
The new RSN started Monday at 6 a.m. (CT), with Heartland Poker Tour: Season 10. Its schedule then follows with four hours of paid programming. The Rich Eisen Show and The Dan Patrick Show, both staples of DirecTV’s Audience Network and other outlets, will run for three hours apiece, before more poker fare bridges the gap until the Rockets pregame show at 6:30 p.m., the team’s contest against the Memphis Grizzlies at 7 p.m. and the post-game show at 9:30 p.m.
Given NBA TV territorial restrictions, the RSN evidently will present an alternate feed of encore of the college football game between Texas Southern and Jackson State from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with Poker Night in America subbing for the post-game show in restricted areas.
According to the website's listing of teams, Root Sports Southwest will be home to 70 Rockets games, plus the pre- and post-game shows, and auxiliary fare. On the diamond, 160 Astros games and related programming also are on tap.
From the college ranks, the listing outlines Big Sky and Southern Conference football, plus Mountain West and Conference USA pigskin and hoops action. Rice basketball appears to be in the mix, flanked by a coaching show, as well as a University of Houston coach’s basketball program.
Although 96 of the 141 CSN Houston employees have lost their gigs in the change, the talent subheading under the "about us" tab on the site indicates that Bill Worrell, Matt Bullard and Clyde Drexler will still call Rockets games, with Calvin Murphy remaining a part of the club’s studio shows. Bill Brown, Alan Ashby, Geoff Blum and Art Howe (studio) will call the 2015 Astros season.