Altitude contract dispute keeps Nuggets, Avalanche off TV

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DENVER -- Monday night's game between the Nuggets and Sacramento Kings will mark the first time most basketball fans won't be able to see the home team on TV.

The Nuggets and Avalanche broadcast all  games on Altitude, the regional sports network owned by Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, the same company that owns the teams.

But Altitude has been in a virtual blackout since its contract expired in August with Comcast, DirecTV and DISH Network, the big three providers of television programming in the Denver metro area.

"Really, as a sports fan, it's depressing," said Darrin Duber-Smith, who as the senior marketing lecturer at Metropolitan State University of Denver has followed the contract dispute closely.

Duber-Smith said cable and satellite providers want to pay Altitude less money than in the past because so many viewers have cut the cord, resulting in fewer customers paying for sports content.

"They don't really stand to lose subscribers frankly if they don't carry Altitude," Duber-Smith said.

During the Nuggets home opener against the Phoenix Suns, Matt Hutchings, the executive vice president and chief operating officer for Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, told broadcasters Scott Hastings and Chris Marlowe that Altitude wants the same deal given to regional sports networks that Comcast and DirecTV own and operate.

"But yet they’re telling us that no we’re not going to do it," he said. "Here’s a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. Take it or leave it and we can’t accept it and they know that."

AT&T provided a statement on the impasse.

"Unfortunately, Altitude forced AT&T to remove its channel from our customers’ lineups. AT&T made a fair offer to keep the channel available, but Altitude rejected it. Consumers have made clear they want more choice over the channels they pay to receive in their homes. Our goal is to offer Rapids, Nuggets and Avalanche games to anyone who wants them most at a value that makes sense to our customers overall. We will not agree to bad deals that do a disservice to our customers, even if it means no longer carrying certain content."

DISH Network also provided a statement.

“We love sports fans, but the deal Altitude has proposed makes no sense for the vast majority of our customers. Altitude is asking us to pay for a majority of subscribers – in the high double-digit percentages – when only a single-digit percentage of our customers actually watches the channel. It’s an outdated model that no longer works for consumers. There are creative solutions to bring back Altitude. We urge Altitude to work with us to reach a logical, long-term agreement for them, for us, but most importantly, for our mutual viewers.”

Comcast also issued a statement.

"We’ve offered Altitude different options which would ensure Nuggets and Avalanche fans can enjoy the games on Comcast.  Thus far, Altitude has rejected those offers.

"Every month, Comcast pays programmers like networks, local TV station owners and others – like Altitude -- for the ability to bring their programming to our subscribers.  When contracts near an end, Comcast evaluates the terms to ensure we're delivering our customers the best entertainment at the best value. We would like to reach a fair and reasonable fee agreement with Altitude while avoiding driving up costs for our customers.

Duber-Smith said while Altitude's home teams have never been more popular, connecting viewers to the games has never been harder because Altitude's viewership still isn't large enough to put the big three providers on the defense.

"It's just a game of chicken and to be honest with you I don't think the carriers can really blink here," he said. "I think it's Kroenke who has to blink."

Altitude is encouraging fans to sign a petition asking the big three providers to put their hometown teams back on the air.

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