(Adds Comcast comment)
By Tom Hals
Aug 7 DirecTV and AT&T Inc would
jointly own a Houston sports network under a plan to end the
network's bankruptcy, although current part-owner Comcast Corp
warned it may challenge the proposal.
The Houston Regional Sports Network, which operates as
Comcast Sportsnet Houston, broadcasts the games of the Houston
Astros baseball and Houston Rockets basketball teams.
DirecTV Sports Networks would own 60 percent of Houston
Regional Sports Network and AT&T would own 40 percent, according
to documents filed late Wednesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court
in Houston. The plan must be put to a vote of creditors and
approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur.
Comcast made clear it did not back the plan in its current
"The reorganization plan presented raises significant
concerns regarding the equitable treatment of the network and
its various constituencies," Comcast said in a statement. "We
intend to exercise all of our available rights as part of a fair
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.
The sports network owes the Astros $27.8 million for unpaid
licensing fees from its 2013 season, and it has not paid the
team at all for 2014, according to court documents.
The Rockets was owed $44.4 million for its 2013-14 season,
court documents say.
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 it at a knock-down
price, according to court documents.
Regional sports networks have risen sharply in value in
recent years, thanks to exclusive rights to broadcast games and
the loyalties of sports fans.
The Houston 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
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 would
allow the network to triple its market reach in the Houston
area, according to court documents.
The documents did not provide detailed financial
As part of the plan to bring the network out of bankruptcy,
new media rights agreements would be negotiated with the Astros
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
and Frances Kerry)