While the mess involving CSN Houston is finally reaching a conclusion, it’s coming with a price – 75 of the 115 employees of CSN Houston were told on Tuesday that they would be laid off if the proposed AT&T/DirecTV reorganization occurs.
Judge Marvin Isgur will decide whether or not to approve the reorganization, which would turn CSN Houston into Root Sports Houston, on October 2nd. Both the Rockets and Astros are in favor of the rebrand, while Comcast opposes it. If Isgur doesn’t approve it, the partnership between the three parties will be completely ended and all 115 people will lose their jobs.
Another note that came along with the news of these layoffs is the ending of the Houston Dynamo TV contract with CSN Houston and the proposed new entity, effective at the end of this MLS season. However, the potential new ownership group is interested in renewing the Dynamo rights for the 2015 season and beyond.
Many of the positions that will be retained are game production jobs. However, Rockets broadcasts Bill Worrell, Matt Bullard, and Calvin Murphy, Astros reporter Julia Morales, and braodcasters Bart Enis and Kevin Eschenfelder are also being retained. The Astros broadcasters Bill Brown, Alan Ashby, and Geoff Blum, and Rockets analyst Clyde Drexler are all employed by their respective teams, and their employment won’t be affected by the reorganzation. Numerous reporters and anchors will not be retained according to court documents obtained by David Barron of the Houston Chronicle (who has done an amazing job covering this story over the past year), including Tiffany Blackmon, Steve Bunin, Howard Chen, Bill Doleman, Sara Eckert, Cory Hepola, Kelli Johnson, John Kelly, James Palmer, Marius Payton, Leila Rahimi, and Sebastian Salazar.
It’s a sad day, but a necessary one. CSN Houston wasn’t going to continue in its present form, and the reorganization gives the network the best chance to survive and possibly even thrive. Both the Astros and Rockets weren’t getting paid for their rights fees, and in this day and age of rising rights fees and the hypothetical RSN bubble, that put both teams at a significant disadvantage compared to their competition. CSN Houston was an ambitious project from its launch, and as its saga comes to an end, hopefully Root Sports Houston doesn’t make the same mistakes and lets the vast majority of Houstonians watch their teams.