By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, we live in Denver where we have the best team in the NBA. But we also have Comcast which is the biggest TV operator in the area. My question is why on earth doesn’t the NBA step in and force the Nuggets and Comcast to make a deal that would end the Altitude Sports blackout on Comcast? Can’t they do anything to end this? — Peter, Denver.
Peter, Comcast and the Colorado-based Altitude Sports regional sports network have been engaged in a bitter dispute since the cable operator lost the regional sports network in September 2019 when their carriage pact expired.
Altitude has the local TV rights to the NBA Western Conference champion Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche, but the blackout has made it very difficult for Denver area fans to watch their favorite teams. Comcast is the largest cable operator in the market. DIRECTV, DIRECTV Stream and Fubo carry Altitude, but satcaster Dish and other live streamers do not.
After the fee fight began, Altitude sued Comcast, claiming it used illegal negotiating tactics to either purchase the channel or force it out of business. The two companies settled their legal dispute in March but the settlement did not include ending the blackout.
The embarrassing situation for the league has popped back into the news this month with the Nuggets facing the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was asked about the blackout during a press conference in Denver. He said his office has actually tried to intervene and persuade the companies to find common ground.
“The league office has tried to mediate several times between the parties. It’s a commercial dispute. There hasn’t been a simple resolution to it,” Silver said. “I know there’s no doubt it’s bad for fans, of course, and the team recognizes that. It’s my hope, though, and one of the things that’s changed considerably since this dispute has started is the advent of many more streaming platforms, better digital streaming technology.”
Silver noted that the league’s national TV contracts are scheduled to expire in two years, a suggestion that a league-created end to the blackout would not likely come until then. The NBA could establish a new TV rights structure that would make it easier for fans to watch local broadcasts.
The commissioner’s comment, and the fact that the companies settled the legal fight in March without a blackout resolution, suggests that a Comcast-Altitude agreement is not likely in the coming months.
Peter, I wish I could be more hopeful. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann