, hitting for an audience that isn't there. (Pat Sullivan/AP)
No one watched the Astros' loss to the Angels on Monday. No, really.
According to Nielsen Company ratings, the Astros' Monday afternoon game against the Angels, aired on Comcast SportsNet Houston, received a 0.0 rating in the Houston area. In other words, not one of the 579 TV set-top meters set up by Nielsen in the city to measure local ratings was tuned to the game, a 9-1 Houston loss. Ratings-wise, the game lost to its own pregame show, which got a 0.2, or roughly 4,600 viewers. Of course, that doesn't mean that the Astros didn't have any viewers Monday; CSN Houston reaches 500,000 households in the area, so the odds are that at least one of those TVs was tuned to the game. But it's still a bad sign for both the team and the network, which is currently in the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
It should come as no surprise that the Astros aren't exactly drawing eyeballs right now. After starting the season with two straight wins against the Yankees, Houston has gone 1-5 since. It didn't help that in Monday's game (which aired at 1:10 p.m.), the Astros gave up three runs in the first inning, or that the team more closely resembles a Triple-A roster instead of a major league team, or that Houston lost 111 games last year (and has dropped 324 combined games in the last three full seasons of play), or that there was a NASCAR race in Fort Worth that aired at the same time (Nielsen rating: 1.7). Put all those together, and you've got a franchise that isn't exactly screaming for attention.
The bad ratings are nothing new for Houston, either; last September, a day game against the Indians got a 0.0 rating, though that one aired opposite a Houston Texans regular-season game. But that 0.0 came at the tail end of a 15-game losing streak in the aforementioned 111-loss season. For the Astros to draw such miserable viewing numbers after only a week of action—when fan interest is usually at a high point—doesn't bode well for the franchise.
What's even more worrisome, however, is the continued struggles of the team's cable network. CSN Houston, which also broadcasts Houston Rockets games, does not have carrier deals with DirecTV, DIsh Network, AT&T U-verse, and other TV providers, thus cutting out a sizable chunk of Astros fans both in Houston and across the country. On top of that, the network recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to the Houston Chronicle, CSN Houston has failed to turn a profit since its launch in fall 2012 and has lost $29 million since it went under Chapter 11 protection in September 2013. It also listed a staggering $165.8 million of liabilities in that bankruptcy filing, including $27 million in rights fees that the network still owes to the Astros.
With the future of CSN Houston in doubt, the Astros could find themselves facing an even bigger struggle simply to get their games on TV, much less getting people to watch. That makes Monday's 0.0 rating less of a fluky worry and more of a major concern.