DirecTV, AT&T to own Houston sports network post-bankruptcy-filing

Thu Aug 7, 2014 12:09pm EDT

Aug 7 (Reuters) - DirecTV and AT&T Inc will jointly own the television sports network that broadcasts Houston Astros baseball and Houston Rockets basketball games under the network's plan to end its bankruptcy, according to court documents.

DirecTV Sports Networks will own 60 percent of Houston Regional Sports Network and AT&T will own 40 percent, according to documents filed late Wednesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston.

The network was pushed into bankruptcy by a unit of Comcast Corp, which loaned the network $100 million and filed an involuntary bankruptcy against it in September. At the time, Comcast said the network should be put up for sale and that it was prepared to bid.

A spokeswoman for Comcast did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The network was formed in 2003 by the Astros and Rockets to broadcast their games as well as games of the Houston Dynamo soccer team and 150 college games. Comcast bought a stake in 2010.

The network has failed to reach a majority of Houston-area viewers due to disagreements with cable and satellite television providers. The reorganization plan unveiled late Wednesday will allow the network to triple its market reach in the Houston area, according to court documents.

The documents did not provide detailed financial information.

As part of the plan to bring the network out of bankruptcy, new media rights agreements will be negotiated with the Astros and Rockets.

The Astros were owed $27.8 million by the network for unpaid licensing fees from its 2013 season, and the network had not paid any fees for 2014.

The Rockets were owed $44.4 million for its 2013-14 season, according to court documents.

The plan must be approved by creditors and U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Marvin Isgur.

The approvals, however, were unlikely to end the legal skirmishes that have marked the bankruptcy. The network plans to repay some of what it owes the teams by pursuing legal claims against Comcast for exerting undue influence over the network and attempting to buy the network at a knock-down price, according to court documents.

The case is In Re: Houston Regional Sports Network LP, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 13-35998 (Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Liana Baker in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)