As Altitude TV’s cable deals expire, where does that leave fans?

Fans walk to the entrance before game one of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs between the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Pepsi Center.
Apr 29, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Fans walk to the entrance before game one of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs between the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

According to Les Shapiro of Mile High Sports, fans of the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, Colorado Mammoth, and the University of Denver may be at risk of losing the ability to watch their teams play on Altitude TV.

As Altitude announced today, the likes of DISH Network, Comcast and DIRECTV are all threatening to drop Altitude from their cable packages. As the calendar flips from August 28th to August 29th at midnight, DISH Network will be dropping Altitude. On Saturday, August 31st, Comcast and DIRECTV will also be dropping Altitude.

“Although Altitude has been negotiating with the three distributors in good faith for fair market rates, and for terms and conditions no different than the ones under which each of those distributors have been carrying Altitude since its initial launch fifteen years ago, all three distributors have so far refused Altitude’s offers,” Altitude stated through their press release.

That means that on the 1st of September, all three major cable providers will not carry any games for the Nuggets, Avalanche, Rapids, Mammoth, and Pioneers while also putting all other shows on the channel on the back burner as the executives of all four companies work to find an agreement.

According to Shapiro, Altitude executives are “very worried that this situation will not get worked out by the start of the Avalanche season”.

To add perspective to that statement, the Avalanche are set to begin their preseason schedule on September 17th. For the Nuggets, their preseason schedule begins on October 8th. That means the Altitude executives have a total of 21 days to get a deal done before the Avalanche season begins and 41 days before the Nuggets season kicks off.

So what is the cause of all of this? Well, the press release from Altitude hit on a few reasons.

“These actions by DISH, Comcast and DIRECTV are directly related to contract negotiations with Altitude, and while Altitude has always negotiated with them in good faith and continues to negotiate in good faith, these Big Three media conglomerates want to play by their own rules and are making unrealistic demands on Altitude,” the press release from Altitude stated. “Their actions will affect hundreds of thousands of regional sports fans and negatively impact hundreds of local businesses that continue to support their home teams.”

“The Big Three’s hardball tactics are dumbfounding and disrespectful to their sports-loving customers,” the Altitude press release stated. “Altitude has been an exemplary partner since its launch in 2004, producing and airing thousands of Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, Colorado Mammoth and DU games. Altitude also telecasts invaluable and award-winning programming otherwise unavailable for colleges and high schools in our 10-state territory. Now the Big Three want to tune out their viewers and turn off our beloved teams and all other Altitude programming. This makes no sense.”

Here is a statement from DISH Network, as reported by Mike Singer of the Denver Post:

“DISH’s goal is to keep Altitude Sports available to our customers at a reasonable cost. We are unsure why Altitude has decided to involve customers in the contract negotiation process when there is still time for the two parties to reach a mutually beneficial deal.”

Comcast also gave a statement to Singer of the Denver Post:

“We want to reach an agreement with Altitude, but it must be at a reasonable price for our customers,” Comcast’s statement to the Denver Post stated. “Altitude has demanded significant annual price increases for the same content for years, which has driven up costs for all of our customers in Colorado and Utah, even though most of them do not watch the channel. Over the past year, more than 95% of Altitude subscribers watched less than the equivalent of a game per week. The price increase Altitude is again demanding is unacceptable given the network’s low viewership. We have submitted a proposal to Altitude that we believe reflects the value of its programming and are hopeful Altitude will accept it so we can continue to carry the network for those customers who want to watch it.”

Many fans of each respective team has mentioned the idea of Altitude going a more fan-friendly streaming route, but according to Singer, Altitude executives “don’t see it as financially stable”.

“The streaming option does not allow you to reach enough viewers to make a sustainable business,” Jim Martin — the CEO of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment — told the Denver Post. “It just doesn’t work. … You have to have broad-based distribution. Comcast and DIRECTV both know that, that’s why they do that with their own networks. If they thought a different model worked, I think maybe they should go lead the charge, do it with their own networks and show us how they make it work, and then we’ll follow.”

“Comcast made us a proposal which they refuse to budge off of, which proposed 60 percent plus cuts in our rates plus taking us to a sports tier as opposed to a basic package, so we would have 60 percent less per subscriber and we’d have only 15-20 percent of the subscribers that we have now,” Martin said when talking to the Denver Post. “The reality of professional sports these days is you have to have broad-based distribution or it’s not a viable situation.”

These disputes usually lead to a last-second agreement which results in no games being blacked out, but for now, all parties involved will continue vying for leverage as discussions continue.

To read the full statement from Altitude, click here.

SHARE