Seventy-five of the 115 employees of Comcast SportsNet Houston were informed Tuesday their jobs will be eliminated if a bankruptcy judge approves a plan backed by the Astros and Rockets to sell the financially troubled network to DirecTV and AT&T.
Employees were informed of the potential layoffs as mandated by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies with at least 100 workers to provide 60-day notice in advance of certain plant closings or mass layoffs.
As company officials delivered the news, one employee said a funereal atmosphere descended over the network’s studios in downtown Houston, midway between Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center.
“You just watched rows and rows of people walk into a room and come out with letters telling them, ‘Hey, thanks for two years, and now you’ve got nothing,’” the employee said. “There wasn’t a lot of outward anger. It was pretty subdued.”
But after the announcements, another employee said, “Everybody was back at their desks, working on the next show.”
Based on details in letters prepared for city and state officials, 40 employees were notified their jobs will be retained by the AT&T/DirecTV partnership, which will rebrand CSN Houston as Root Sports Houston under a Chapter 11 reorganization plan pending before Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur.
Isgur is scheduled to decide Oct. 2 whether to approve the plan, which is opposed by Comcast. If the reorganization is not approved, the Astros-Rockets-Comcast partnership will be liquidated and all jobs eliminated.
Root Sports will include distribution on DirecTV and AT&T U-verse in addition to Comcast. The AT&T/DirecTV partnership plans to drop its contract for Dynamo games, but team officials say the network has expressed interest in a new deal for the 2015 season.
Most employees who will be retained for Root Sports Houston are employed in game production. Also retained will be Rockets broadcasters Bill Worrell, Matt Bullard and Calvin Murphy; Astros field reporter Julia Morales; and sportscasters Bart Enis and Kevin Eschenfelder.
Astros announcers Bill Brown, Alan Ashby and Geoff Blum and Rockets analyst Clyde Drexler are team employees and are not affected.
Among those whose contracts are not being retained by AT&T/DirecTV, according to court documents, include reporters and anchors 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.
Several of those likely will be offered jobs with other NBC Sports Group networks. Johnson, Doleman, Palmer and Payton came to Houston from other NBC-owned networks.
The announcement came on the same day it was announced that CSN Houston has been nominated for 16 regional Emmy Awards, including several of those who face layoffs next month.
For more visit the Houston Chronicle where this story was originally published