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Root Sports Launching In Houston

Jason Barrett

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AT&T and DirecTV were granted a clear path Thursday to launch Root Sports Houston, the new television home for Astros and Rockets games, and to begin televising Rockets games as early as this month.

Based on an agreement between Comcast lawyers and attorneys for AT&T, DirecTV, the Astros and Rockets, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes dissolved the last court-imposed delay against closing the new network deal.

However, it remains unclear when Comcast SportsNet Houston, the teams’ current home, will fade to black and Root Sports Houston, which will have carriage on DirecTV and AT&T U-verse in addition to Comcast cable, will take its place.

“There’s still a process. We don’t have an announcement on when this will allow us to (launch the new network),” said Rockets general counsel Rafael Stone. “But there’s a clear path with no more legal obstacles.”

Attorneys reached an agreement that allows Comcast to continue its appeal on financial aspects of the year-long CSN Houston bankruptcy case and for the teams to close on the transactions that will accompany the network sale and the transfer of their broadcast rights to Root Sports Houston.

Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur on Oct. 30 approved a reorganization plan that approved the sale of the Astros-Rockets-Comcast-owned network to AT&T and DirecTV. He also imposed a 14-day stay to allow Comcast to appeal the ruling.

Comcast appealed Isgur’s ruling to Hughes and sought to stay the decision while it appealed.

However, Comcast attorneys said Wednesday their primary motive on appeal will be to recoup a $100 million loan granted CSN Houston for startup costs in 2012 and that they would not stand in the way of launching the new network.

Attorneys for the teams, in turn, agreed the new network’s launch would not be viewed as nullifying Comcast’s rights on appeal.

Accordingly. Hughes denied the motion to stay Isgur’s order and also terminated the automatic stay granted by the bankruptcy court.

Attorneys earlier indicated the new network could launch on Nov. 14, but DirecTV would not confirm that date. CSN Houston’s current telecast schedule now extends through Sunday, Nov. 16.

“It’s great for the city,” said Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “It’s great for the Rockets fans, and I’m thrilled. Thank you very much to Judge Hughes for letting fans be able to watch the Rockets.”

Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe added, “We’re ready to get the games on TV. It’s great to start the Rockets’ season. It’s great for the fans of Houston. It’s an exciting time.”

Under the reorganization plan approved by Isgur, the teams and Comcast will lose their network equity, and the teams agreed to forego immediate payment of more than $100 million in unpaid rights fees.

Only 45 of the 141 CSN Houston employees will be retained by the new network, which will show Rockets and Astros games but will not retain CSN Houston’s news and talk shows.

Comcast will continue to contest Isgur’s determination that Comcast is not due full repayment of its $100 million secured loan. Comcast is now scheduled to receive only $26 million.

Attorneys met behind closed doors for more than 90 minutes Wednesday and also met with Hughes, who apparently encouraged a settlement that would enable him to avoid having to rule on the stay request.

“One reason I want to handle this as expeditiously as possible is so I can get rid of you guys,” he said. “This hasn’t been much fun the last 15 months.”

Attorneys now will work on legal briefings related to the financial issues, which may be discussed after the Thanksgiving holidays.

CSN Houston launched in October 2012 but was never available on DirecTV, U-verse, Dish Network or Suddenlink cable. Limited carriage resulted in limited revenue, and Comcast filed to put the network into involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2013 when the Astros said they would retake their broadcast rights because of unpaid rights fees.

Credit to the Houston Chronicle who originally posted this article

Sports Radio News

Jonathan Zaslow No Longer With WQAM

An attempt to reach out to Zaslow for comment went unanswered.

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WQAM midday host Jonathan Zaslow is no longer with WQAM in Miami.

The radio station has removed his show from the website and references to him and his normal 10a-2p ET midday timeslot program have been scrubbed from the station website.

Zaslow tweeted at 5:19p ET confirming the news.

Whether or not this has any effect on his involvement with the Miami Heat broadcasts is unknown as of now.

Barry Jackson, a veteran journalist with the Miami Herald, reports that 790 The Ticket morning hosts Brendan Tobin and Leroy Hoard will move to that 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. WQAM slot during the week of Oct. 3.

In more station movement, Joe Rose’s WQAM morning show with Zach Krantz now will be simulcast on The Ticket, replacing the Tobin/Hoard program. Audacy, which owns both WQAM and The Ticket, also simulcast Marc Hochman’s and Channing Crowder’s afternoon show.

Zaslow had been with 790 the Ticket since 2004. He was transitioned from Audacy-owned 790 to sister station AM 560 Sports WQAM last October. During his tenure he has worked with a number of established local voices including Joy Taylor, Amber Wilson, Brett Romberg, and Brendan Tobin amongst others.

WQAM has gone thru a number of changes, including a rebranding effort to call the station “560 The Joe”. That ended last year with the station returning to the AM 560 Sports WQAM brand listeners were more familiar with. What they have planned next in Zaslow’s timeslot is unclear but local listeners will likely get some answers next week.

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Sports Radio News

Vanessa Richardson Named Houston Rockets Sideline Reporter, Paul Gallant to Host Solo on ESPN 97.5

Vanessa Richardson will be on the sidelines for the Houston Rockets and Paul Gallant will host solo show on ESPN 97.5.

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Vanessa and Gallant

Changes are taking place in Houston sports media. First, the Houston Rockets will have a new television sideline reporter this season, and she’s a familiar name to Houston sports fans.

Vanessa Richardson, the now former co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, revealed that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

She tweeted the news saying, “Elated to be the new Houston Rockets sideline reporter! I can’t wait to travel the country & share the stories of this dynamic team during 80+ games on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. I’ll continue to fill-in as a host/reporter for Astros broadcasts as well.”

Richardson’s co-host, Paul Gallant, tweeted that with Richardson leaving the show for the Rockets sideline gig, Vanessa and Gallant will become the Paul Gallant Show. The solo show led by Gallant begins Monday September 26th.

“We’re excited to have Paul host his own show”, said Todd Farquharson, General Manager of ESPN 97.5 & 92.5.  “He’s super creative, energetic, and likeable.  He’ll get the audience involved and have fun.”

Paul commented, “You know what I’ve always loved about sports talk radio?  That it’s interactive.  Whether through a phone call, text message, tweet or on Twitch, it’s the best place for sports fans to come together and celebrate…or vent.  And that’s what The Paul Gallant Show is going to be…Houston’s platform to talk about its teams. THE most interactive sports talk show in Houston.”

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Sports Radio News

Ken Carman: Al Michaels ‘Feels Untethered’ On Amazon Prime Video

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

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The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. 92.3 The Fan morning host Ken Carman applauded Al Michaels for his performance during the presentation.

“Al Michaels feels untethered for the first time. He’s not network television anymore and he can say whatever he wants. We interviewed him on the pregame show and I was nervous,” Carman said.

“He’s a legend,” co-host Anthony Lima added.

During the final play of the game, the Steelers fumbled a lateral into the endzone which the Browns recovered to make the final score 29-17. Michaels said “that may be meaningful to some of you. And you know who I mean”, alluding to people who had placed wagers on the game.

Carman, who hosts two-hours of pre-game coverage on the Browns Radio Network, continued to discuss how nervous he was interviewing Michaels. He also discussed how impressive Amazon’s behind-the-scenes production was, pointing out the only football broadcast with more cameras is the Super Bowl. More than 400 people work behind the scenes for Amazon Prime Video.

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

Carman later said people angry that Michaels misspoke by saying the Pro Football Hall of Fame is “down I-71” instead of I-77 were unreasonable, and joked “Al Michaels hasn’t been on a highway in 20 years”.

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