Monday, November 21, 2005

Houston Sports Media Market

11. Houston

2.0 million TV households

The original RSN in Houston was Home Sports Entertainment (HSE), launched in 1983 to carry Rockets and Astros games. I believe HSE was eventually acquired by Liberty, then rolled up into FSN Southwest in 1999.

As mentioned in my post on the Dallas market, the entire Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana MLB territory is shared by both the Astros and the Rangers. Viewers outside of the immediate vicinity of either city are able to get both teams games.

The same market area is also covered by the Stars, the only NHL team in the region. Houston has long been thought of as a potential NHL city, however, so time will tell if one of the smaller market teams eventually migrates there.

Reading from the Tom Hicks playbook on rights negotiations, the owners of the Rockets and Astros banded together in 2002 in the hopes of using their combined leverage to break from FSN to launch a new network. This was prompted by the Rockets being lowballed for their rights by Fox.

After making this announcement with several years left on the Astros contract with FSN, lawsuits ensued. In November, 2004, the teams finally agreed to settle with FSN and offer their combined rights for in an estimated $600 million deal over 12-15 years. A sideline to this deal was FSN's decision to carve out the Houston territory into FSN Houston with its own programming. This was not a major operational change for Fox, since they would split the Southwest feed on nights when both baseball teams were playing anyway.

Houston is also a stronghold of Big 12 sports, and FSN has plenty of local programming for college fans.