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(Associated Press)

Gazzolo: Comcast Houston trying to get into Lake Charles market

Last Modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 6:13 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Saturday’s game between the McNeese State and Lamar men’s basketball teams will be televised live.

While this is hardly North Carolina against Duke, there is more than a little local interest in the contest. It’s not only a neighborhood rivalry, but this one game could go a long way in deciding the eighth and final spot in the upcoming Southland Tournament.

So there is more than just a passing interest for local fans.

Yet the game won’t be seen in Lake Charles or the surrounding area.

Matt Hutchings hopes to change that and he hopes to change it very soon.

Hutchings in the general manager of Comcast SportsNet Houston, which holds the rights to the McNeese-Lamar game among other events that we used to get on our television.

Comcast SportsNet will be the new home to the Houston Astros this spring and already has taken over coverage of both the Rockets and Dynamo.

Launched last fall, CSN replaced Fox Sports in the Houston market, but has yet to find a home in Southwest Louisiana.

“We have tried to get into the market,” said Hutchings. “We have been in negotiations with just about everybody we could be, cable, DirecTV, Dish, but we haven’t been able to sign a deal yet.”

Hutchings wants that to change. If not, it will mean no Astros this spring and summer for the area.

While that may not seem like a big deal considering the Astros’ hopes are dim and interest locally has lowered, they are still the only professional baseball team around.

Two hours is not a long drive to see a game, especially when you consider the American League is coming to Houston.

But as of now, they are off the local radar when it comes to television. Same with the Rockets and Dynamo, Houston’s pro soccer team.

Both the Rockets and Dynamo were shown locally on Fox Sport Houston in the past.

“We want to give the people of Southwest Louisiana back what they were used to getting,” said Hutchings. “We think it is a very good market, one that is going to grow. We want to grow with it.

“We want to keep the relationship we had with the area and even build on it. For that we need views to call their local providers.”

After slipping in his pitch to viewers, Hutchings said the goal of his network is to be back in the area as soon as possible.

“We are still talking to everybody we can to make this happen,” he said.

Hutchings isn’t just talking about pro and college either. He wants to bring his cameras into the area when it comes to high school games as well, especially football.

The network had talks with LHSAA about televising games in Louisiana. They already do so in Texas.

Hutchings says that, along with hosting local coaches shows, like from McNeese, indicates the network wants to be a part of the community and not just pick up viewers.

“That is important to us, to show that we are in the area,” Hutchings said. “We want to be a great regional sports network, not one that just shows professionals and colleges. We want to show games and tell stories about the people and teams that are important to a community.”

Let’s face it, when it comes to coverage Southwest Louisiana is in a sort of dark hole. Cox Sports gives us the state and New Orleans, and does a nice job covering the state softball, but rarely does it broadcast events live from Lake Charles.

That does leave an opening for somebody to fill.

Hutchings wants his network to fill it.

“That is our wish, to be a part of the Lake Charles system,” he said.

More options for fans is never a bad idea.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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