Proposal could increase Astros' TV coverage

AT&T, DirecTV would become owners of reorganized regional network

Proposal could increase Astros' TV coverage

PHILADELPHIA -- AT&T and DirecTV would become the owners of the regional sports network that broadcasts Astros games if a plan submitted by the team, the NBA's Houston Rockets and the Houston Regional Sports Network is approved by a bankruptcy judge, a move that would lead to widespread viewership of games in the Houston area.

The Astros, Rockets and HRSN -- the parent company of Comcast SportsNet Houston, which currently is available to only about 40 percent of the Houston television market -- submitted a plan late Wednesday prior to a hearing Thursday in Houston before U.S. bankruptcy judge Marvin Isgur regarding a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case involving the partnership between the Astros, Rockets and Comcast.

The numbers regarding potential media rights fees between the new company and the Rockets and Astros were not disclosed. The reorganized network would be operated as Root Sports.

An Oct. 2 hearing is set for final approval on the plan, but there remain hurdles. The teams will fight Comcast over repayment of the $100 million secured loan for startup costs.

If approved, there would be full carriage through television providers AT&T, DirecTV and Comcast throughout the television market territory. That would allow about 76 percent of the viewers in Houston to have access to the network, a number that would increase as smaller carriers followed suit.

"We're very excited to have filed this plan of reorganization," Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe said. "We believe that this provides certainty as to our media rights fees, which we haven't had over the last three years, and it also provides carriage throughout Comcast, AT&T and DirecTV and will allow our fans throughout our region to watch the Astros games.

"We're very excited about it. We still have to get this approved by the court so we still have some hurdles to overcome, but this is a big step in the right direction. We're a lot closer to giving our fans what they want and what we've been trying to give them."

The Houston Chronicle, citing attorneys familiar with the case, said competing plans could be filed within a month's time. Other attorneys familiar with the case, the paper wrote, estimate that winding down the bankruptcy case could take up to 70 days, although the court could reduce that timeframe.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.