Altitude not available since August at Comcast Homes on the Denver Market and Rocky Mountain 10-State Area, which the channel typically reaches, as the two entities are involved in a dispute over the Comcast shipping fee and how the channel is spreading.
Comcast is the dominant television provider in Denver, providing services to more than half of the homes, which, according to the lawsuit, gives it an unusual market power in pricing. At the same time, Comcast also owns several regional sports networks nationwide, as well as broadcast rights to some sports broadcast in Denver, including the NHL, which broadcasts the Comcast NBC-owned network of networks.
Last month, Altitude reached an agreement with AT&T-owned DirecTV but did not enter into a deal with Dish Network or Comcast.
Meanwhile, Denver residents with cable over Comcast failed to watch the avalanche of NHL and Nggets. (Altitude also broadcasts MLS and local lacrosse games and sports schools.) Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) weighed in on the weekend, tweeting: "Bring our teams back to our screens!" while also publicly releasing a letter which he wrote to Altitude asking for a deal.
Regional sports networks often partner with professional teams, acting as middle men, buying the broadcast rights of the teams and then selling them to a television provider. Networks also produce game broadcasts and provide pre- and post-game broadcasts for those live games as well as other content. Disputes between the parties have not been uncommon in recent years as television users cut the cable in large numbers. While broadcasters seek to pay lower fees and shift local sports programming away from the major cable packages, networks continue to seek higher levels of distribution. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network in the Washington DC area is not currently available on the Dish Network. Many Los Angeles fans have not been able to watch the Dodgers games for several years, as cable operators have not paid to broadcast the network that broadcasts the team's games.
However, according to Altitude's complaint, Comcast is trying to impose conditions – both through lower payments to the network and by moving Altitude from its core cable package – that it does not impose on RSN, which it has nationwide. The lawsuit also notes that Comcast has increased a line item purchase for a regional cable fee for cable customers in Denver, while informing the network that customers do not want to pay for the channel.
"Every independent RSN should be scared of what's going on," said Bill Isaacson, an attorney with Bois Schiller Flexner, an Altitude firm. "If the conditions they asked for made economic sense, then they would want the same thing from all their RSNs and as far as we know they are not."
Comcast claims that information about its viewers indicates that altitude is a small, monitored network that has increased the total cost of its cable package in Colorado and Utah by requesting an annual fee increase due to fixed prices, the network has already agreed to pay teams.
"This is a pointless lawsuit in an intensely competitive marketplace where Comcast does not have a competitive regional sports network and Altitude has many alternatives for distribution," the Comcast release said. "Instead of conducting unfounded litigation, Altitude should initiate responsible trade negotiations that would allow Comcast to distribute its programming to those customers who want it without increasing the cost to customers who do not."
much of RSN is owned by no Comcast, AT&T or Sinclair Broadcasting Corp., which recently paid more than $ 10 billion for about 20 channels. Altitude, along with MASN, New England Sports Network and MSG Network, are among the independent regional sports networks.
Altitude is owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, a holding company controlled by Stan Kroenke, owner of Avalanche, Nuggets, Colorado Rapids of MLS and Los Angeles Aries of the NFL.