The Houston Astros and Houston Rockets, of North American baseball’s MLB and basketball’s NBA, respectively, have announced their acquisition of the AT&T SportsNet Southwest regional sports network (RSN) from media giant Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD).
The acquisition was completed over the weekend (September 30) and will see the RSN rebranded Space City Home Network from tomorrow (October 3).
The network has retained rights to Astros and Rockets games, as well as high school and college sports, and will air its first live game tomorroq between the Rockets and Indiana Pacers.
Giles Kibbe, Astros senior vice president and general counsel, said: “We are excited to partner with the Rockets and launch the new home for Astros and Rockets coverage with Space City Home Network.
“Together with the Rockets, we’ve worked hard to ensure that Space City Home Network will bring you the same Astros and Rockets sports coverage from the faces and voices you know and love. We look forward to this new chapter and remain committed to delivering great broadcasts.”
The sale comes after WBD confirmed plans to exit the RSN business in the US by the end of the year, forcing the Astros and Rockets to partner up and acquire the network or find a new television home.
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Patrick Crumb, president of regional sports networks at WBD, said: “We appreciate the collaboration from the Astros and Rockets as we reach an agreement that is in the best interest of all parties, including the fans we all serve.”
WBD’s decision to exit the RSN market impacts a total of 10 teams from MLB, NBA, and ice hockey’s NHL.
Along with Houston, the WBD operates two other AT&T SportsNet-branded channels in Pittsburgh and Denver. It also has a minority stake in Seattle’s Root Sports Northwest RSN but informed multiple teams in February of its intention to sell or shut down the networks. WBD took over the three businesses when it merged with Discovery.
The RSNs own the local rights for games involving four MLB teams – Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Colorado Rockies – three NBA teams – Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz – and three NHL outfits – Seattle Kraken, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Vegas Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights have already agreed a multi-year deal with Scripps Sports for local broadcasts of their games, while the Jazz will have non-nationally televised games shown on local Sinclair-owned commercial TV station KJZZ.
AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh has been sold to Fenway Sports Group, owners of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and rebranded as SportsNet Pittsburgh.
AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, meanwhile, will be shut down after the Colorado Rockies’ regular season on Sunday (October 8). The team does not have a broadcast home for the 2024 season.
Other teams will now have to decide whether to reclaim their rights for themselves or whether it is more beneficial to them to buy the RSNs from WBD.
WBD's move comes amid an implosion of the RSN market in the US after Diamond Sports Group, the largest RSN owner in the country, fell into bankruptcy in March due to significant financial losses caused by a drop in subscribers who have been cord-cutting in favor of streaming, as well as rights fees increasing.
The bankruptcy has affected 42 teams across the NHL, NBA, and MLB.