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Root Sports Houston granted clearance to launch

Satellite-television provider DirecTV and telecommunications company AT&T have been granted permission to launch Root Sports Houston, a new US network that will provide coverage of Houston Astros MLB baseball and Houston Rockets NBA basketball games, according to the Houston Chronicle newspaper.

A new agreement between the two teams’ local rights-holder, Comcast SportsNet Houston, and DirecTV, AT&T, the Astros and Rockets will lead to the dissolution of a previous court-imposed delay of the launch.

The new network will replace Comcast SportsNet Houston, which launched two years ago, but has primarily only been available to Comcast subscribers, representing about 40 per cent of the local television market.

The parent company of financially-troubled Comcast SportsNet Houston was placed under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February. The network had struggled as its reach was limited by an ongoing dispute the broadcaster was engaged in with local cable and satellite television providers over the fee it should receive per subscriber.

The agreement will also enable the teams to close on the transactions that will accompany the network sale and the transfer of their broadcast rights to Root Sports Houston.

It is not yet clear when Root Sports Houston will commence broadcasting or when Comcast SportsNet Houston will cease transmission.

Rockets general counsel Rafael Stone said: “There’s still a process. We don’t have an announcement on when this will allow us to (launch the new network). But there’s a clear path with no more legal obstacles.”

Comcast attorneys said that their primary motive is to recoup a $100m (€80.1m) loan granted to Comcast SportsNet Houston for start-up costs in 2012. They also confirmed they would not attempt to block the launch of the new network.

Attorneys for the teams agreed that the new network’s launch would not be viewed as nullifying Comcast’s rights on appeal.