Comcast could add another entry to its roster of regional sports networks as it looks to build a new service around the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets.
Talks continue with ownership of the Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association teams, whose rights are currently the property of FSN Houston through the conclusion of the 2012 and 2011-12 seasons, respectively. The incumbent RSN, AT&T U-verse and DirecTV as a team, and a private equity firm, are also in discussions with the clubs.
Under Comcast's game plan, the teams would combine to hold upward of 70% of the new RSN, with Comcast Sports holding the rest and operating the service, which would tip off with the Rockets' 2012-13 campaign.
Should the deal come to fruition it would mark the first Comcast SportsNet addition since 2007 when it acquired remaining stakes from FSN Bay Area and FSN New England from Cablevision subsidiary Rainbow Media Holdings and launched CSN Northwest.
Comcast officials declined comment.
Comcast became the predominant cable operator in the Houston DMA in 2006, when it dissolved a partnership with Time Warner Cable that held those systems, as well a number in southwest Texas, San Antonio and Kansas City markets. The transition occurred as Comcast swapped its then-holdings in Dallas with Time Warner Cable as part of their $17.6 billion purchase of the now-defunct Adelphia Communications out of bankruptcy.
The top MSO has some 700,000 of Houston's 1.2 million cable subscribers. Houston is the nation's 10th largest DMA with some 2.1 million TV households, according to Nielsen.
The Astros and Rockets have been down this path before: The clubs were engaged in a legal battle with FSN Southwest to form their own network over a two-year period before reaching an out-of-court settlement in November 2004 that kept the games on that RSN, which was subsquently rebranded FSN Houston.
Comcast has similar club-owned structures with CSN Chicago, CSN Bay Area and with SNY, where a New York Mets-related business owns most of the equity, while Time Warner Cable and Comcast hold smaller stakes and the latter runs the RSN.
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