NBA’s Rockets granted more time in CSN Houston case

The Houston Rockets NBA basketball franchise has been granted additional time by a federal bankruptcy judge to negotiate on behalf of financially-troubled Comcast SportsNet Houston, the exclusive home of Rockets and Houston Astros MLB baseball games, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The newspaper said that US District Judge Marvin Isgur has set a date of February 4 to hear arguments on the Astros’ motion to dismiss an involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition filed against CSN Houston in September. He has also agreed to extend until next month the Rockets’ power to seek new business for the network.

CSN Houston’s three-member board had consisted of representatives of media and technology corporation Comcast, the Rockets and the Astros. However, it has struggled as its reach has been limited by an ongoing dispute the broadcaster has been engaged in with local cable and satellite television providers over the fee it should receive per subscriber.

The Chronicle said that Isgur also provided a “clearly worded signal” indicating that if the Astros-Rockets-Comcast partnership enters bankruptcy, he would fall in favour of eliminating a controversial clause that requires all three partners to agree on significant decisions.

This clause has been cited as a significant impediment in efforts to increase coverage for the network, which is available to around 40 per cent of the area’s 2.2 million television households. Four Comcast affiliates last year made a bankruptcy filing in an effort to prevent the Astros from retaking their broadcast rights after they were not paid for several months.

The Chronicle added that Rockets chief executive Tad Brown has provided an update on his efforts to secure possible investors and additional carriage partners for CSN Houston. Brown said the Rockets held talks with Fox Sports, Time Warner, DirecTV, AT&T, entertainment conglomerate AEG and private equity companies, including KKR & Co., Providence Equity Partners and Guggenheim Partners.