Houston’s professional basketball and baseball teams have acquired the AT&T SportsNet regional sports channel from its former parent, Warner Bros Discovery (WBD).
The acquisition of AT&T SportsNet Southwest comes as WBD continues its strategy of exiting the regional sports business amid a focus on its core national cable television assets, film studios and streaming services Max and Discovery Plus.
Two weeks ago, a sports reporter for local CBS affiliate KHOU (Channel 11) uncovered a trademark application for “Space City Home Network,” which the station speculated would be the new name of AT&T SportsNet Southwest once it was sold off.
That prediction came true this week when the owners of the Houston Astros baseball team and Houston Rockets basketball team announced they were acquiring AT&T SportsNet Southwest and renaming it accordingly.
The sale of the channel comes several weeks after WBD announced it had reached a deal to offload AT&T Sports Pittsburgh to the Fenway Sports Group, the majority owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, whose broadcast rights were held by the channel.
WBD still has at least two other regional sports properites that are, as of Monday, in limbo: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain and a minority ownership stake in Root Sports. In September, the Denver Post newspaper said WBD was planning to shut down the Rocky Mountain regional network, which serves the greater Denver area by cable and satellite. That closure could happen as soon as October 6, the newspaper said.
No plans have been outlined for its minority stake in Root Sports. The Seattle Mariners baseball team owns the majority of that channel, and there is speculation that the Mariners could simply acquire the remainder of Root Sports if WBD does not find a buyer for its stake by the end of the month.
WBD acquired the three AT&T SportsNet regional networks and AT&T’s minority stake in Root Sports after AT&T spun off WarnerMedia into a separate company last year. Following the spin-off, WarnerMedia immediately merged with WBD’s predecessor, Discovery Communications, to form the present-day company.
Over time, WBD has decided to focus more on building out its cornerstone streaming service, Max, to include incorporating more sports programming that are aired on WBD’s general entertainment cable networks TBS, TNT and Tru TV.
In September, WBD affirmed plans to offer live baseball, basketball and hockey aired on its cable networks through Max, which will start later this month. Access to sports on Max will be included as part of a viewer’s subscription, which starts at $10 a month with advertisements. Next year, WBD intends to charge for a sports add-on to Max, which will carry the branding of its digital sports platform, Bleacher Report.