Altitude files antitrust lawsuit against Comcast amid channel blackout, coverage negotiations

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DENVER — Altitude Sports & Entertainment filed a federal antitrust lawsuit Monday against Comcast. It comes as the sports network is unavailable to Comcast cable subscribers while the two companies continue negotiations.

Altitude, a regional sports network, broadcasts live games from the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Mammoth and Colorado Rapids.

The channel had been in a virtual blackout since August, when its contracts with DirecTV, Comcast and DISH Network expired. Altitude reached a multi-year deal with DirecTV on October 31.

A portion of the lawsuit reads:

“If Comcast is successful in its campaign against Altitude, Comcast will quickly and easily take over regional sports production in the Denver DMA [Designated Market Area]. In economic and legal terms, that means that Comcast is a ‘rapid entrant’ and is therefore considered a direct competitor to Altitude for antitrust purposes.”

In a statement, Comcast said Monday:

“This is a meritless lawsuit in an intensely competitive market where Comcast has no competitive regional sports network and Altitude has multiple distribution alternatives.  Instead of pursuing baseless litigation, Altitude should engage in responsible commercial negotiations that would allow Comcast to distribute its programming to those customers who want it without driving up costs for customers who do not.  Since at this point Altitude has rejected all reasonable offers, we have provided our customers with a credit until we reach an agreement.  We will vigorously defend ourselves against Altitude’s claims.”

Altitude said in a news conference Monday that the lawsuit was not a negotiation tactic, and that Comcast won’t offer the same deal it gives to the cable company’s own sports networks in other cities. The company insists that an internet streaming option to bypass Comcast would not be economically viable.

Comcast must respond to the lawsuit within 21 days of being served.

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