Astros Almost Blacked Out on Out-of-Town Cable

What’s wrong with this picture? – In most State of Texas cable TV homes, you almost have as much chance of seeing the Pecan Park Eagles as you do the Houston Astros.

Recent column comments by Greg Lucas, Wayne Roberts of Austin, and Tom Hunter of Denver underscore an unresolved media problem that only hurts all the more as the 2017 Astros continue to reveal themselves as probably the best team in baseball. Their comments certainly underscore the frustration I’ve heard from my younger brother, John McCurdy, of Beeville, Texas, 50 miles north of Corpus Christi. Down there, like most other places outside of Houston, cable subscribers cannot get regular daily coverage of Astros games. You have to get the less available Direct TV satellite coverage to get our standard ROOTS coverage of the Astros or simply settle for the Rangers-biased cable deal they offer in the hinterlands. That means you get to watch the Astros only when they appear on the Rangers cable TV schedule.

How stupid is that? More importantly, look at the lost opportunity here. While the Astros continue to build what well may turn out to be the greatest club in their history, the opportunity is lost for building and attracting fans from areas that used to love Houston. – The State of Texas doesn’t get to watch. They get to watch the hapless, bungling Texas Rangers.

Here’s the comment by Greg Lucas on the “An Artful Homage to Larry Dierker” piece on May 12, 2017:

“Bill, this is a great piece, but the most striking and significant point is how the Astros STILL don’t get the coverage over TV in the regions they used to be common (in the Fox Sports days.) That has allowed the Rangers to dominate access for baseball fans in the region. The ill-fated Comcast “experiment” continues to haunt the Astros. Out of sight, out of mind is an old phrase that obviously continues to still plague the Astros.”

Here’s the comment by Wayne Roberts on the “Sunday Night’s Jeter Game was ‘2’ Much” article today, March 15, 2017:

“…. If you really want to barf out, try getting Astros coverage in Austin. The media bias to all things Dallas which has existed for decades is at an all time high. Local TV outlets report the Rangers scores but not the Astros. The Austin American Statesboy only recently added summaries of the Astros since they took their commanding lead in the AL West. We get Astros box scores for about 1 in 5 games. No real televised games (only Root which has a small area of the Central Texas market). Today it was about how hot the Strangers are and ignored the fact that they’ve done nothing to catch the Astros in games behind. And don’t even ask about the Cowboys vs the Texans’ coverage. All this when there are tens of thousands more ex-Houstonians in Central Texas than ex-Metroplexers.”

Here’s the comment by Tom Hunter on the “Sunday Night’s Jeter Game was ‘2’ Much” article today, March 15, 2017:

“When we moved to Austin (from Pearland) in 1963, there was only one television station (excluding the UT channel), KTBC, which was owned by Lady Bird. KTBC determined what you watched from the three major networks at any given hour. You had no choice. It was quite a shock from living in Pearland, where you could select from CBS, NBC, ABC, and KUHT in Houston. I missed watching the World Series for the first time that year.”

Bottom Line: What, if anything,  can the Astros do to correct this sorry situation? Whether the club is the target of this harm to their live media game coverage – or whether they simply are the “friendly fire” victims of some hard playing media politics among major corporate entities in the lucrative broadcasting arena, something needs to be done. Old fans and potential Astros fans away from Houston are mostly missing the biggest potential party in our Houston club’s history. Right now, for example, the Astros lead the Marlins, 11-2, in the bottom of the 8th. Dallas Keuchel is on the brink of going 7-0 on the season. And the Astros have a good clean shot at going 28-12 on the season as we now play into the 9th.

Isn’t it time that this missing coverage mess did something other than arouse a few disgruntled groans of “that’s cable TV politics for you”?

And is there anything we Astros fans/home viewers can do to help put the squeeze on those corporate forces who want to keep things just as they are?


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle



3 Responses to “Astros Almost Blacked Out on Out-of-Town Cable”

  1. gregclucas Says:

    This whole lack of distribution was the single biggest mistake the Astros made when they decided to first “form their own network with the Rockets” and then tie-in with Comcast which had a history of being very un-interested in distributing its product to anyone but their own company. Fox did not run a cable company. Their job was to acquire affiliates of all kinds to get their product into more homes. When the Astros and Rockets dropped that relationship they simply had no idea what they were getting into.

    What kind of a company was Comcast? Consider they have put their name on the building that NBC calls home in New York. They own NBC which has a much longer and proud tradition, but Comcast is what the Rockefeller Center building says and even though their newer regional sports networks, including CSN-Houston, were heavily set up by folks with NBC Sports they named them Comcast Sports Net instead of NBCSportsNet which would have given the networks a much stronger name. Plus, it would have perhaps caused less resistance by some potential cable and/or satellite carriers to offer the channels. It is instructive that this year some of the West Coast CSN’s are changing their names to use NBC.

    It took Fox (first under the ownership of HSE and later Prime) years to build the affiliate base that encompassed five states and as many as 10-million potential viewers. Comcast was starting from scratch. Not only did they have to battle cable system operators who were not willing to take the games at the price Comcast (and the teams) wanted to charge, but they already had Fox Sports SW which was less costly and was the #1 source for the Big 12 and many other products they were used to. Then when the Astros rebuilding plan co-incided with the new pricey network it was easy to ignore them.

    The Texas Rangers which had been only an after thought when someone wanted to see the stars of the American League until Nolan Ryan signed on, suddenly turned things around and became a pennant winner and two-time World Series participant. Who needed the Astros?

    While the Astros team has made great strides on the field the marketing outside the immediate Houston area will continue to be hampered by the decisions made when the club split with Fox and made its pact with Comcast. Now, with costs rising, people cutting their ties to cable and satellite it may be impossible for the Astros to ever reach as many homes as they did in the Fox Sports SW/Houston days. It is a shame because it certainly appears a new and maybe even best golden era of Houston baseball is coming. You may just have to either move closer in to Houston..get a DTV subscription (which, at least are available to anyone with a house–apartment dwellers maybe not) or just hope they can find a good radio signal somewhere.

    Maybe someday fans will be able to pay a reasonable fee to patch the games from a laptop into a big screen TV without concern for market proximity or blackouts. Then those folks without any other method of seeing the games will be back in the “family.” Until then ??

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Greg – Thanks for the eloquent reminder that life often provides us with issues that are small potatoes consequences by comparison to the monster changes our culture’s ego/business decisions sometimes impact upon even larger realms of wonder and concern.

  2. John Watkins Says:

    Here is another absurdity. I am a transplanted Texan living in the northwest corner of Arkansas, about thirty miles from the Missouri and Oklahoma state lines. Our Fox affiliate on the cable system, Fox Sports Southwest, carries the Rangers. We also get the Cardinals through an arrangement with Fox Sports Midwest. No Astros, though, and I cannot get the games via MLB.TV. Because our area is considered part of the Houston market, the Astros games are blacked out.

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