NBA commissioner Adam Silver called it “extremely frustrating” that Nuggets games are still unavailable to a majority of Denver cable television subscribers due to the ongoing Altitude Sports-Comcast impasse.
With the Nuggets days away from tipping off the 2021-22 season, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment remains mired in a dispute with Comcast and, to a lesser degree, DISH Network, that has kept its regional sports network off those providers’ platforms since late August 2019.
Asked by The Denver Post during a virtual news conference Monday what the league was doing to address the issue, Silver was sympathetic but didn’t offer much in the way of short-term solutions. He did, however, provide a cautionary tale about not finding a suitable solution to the dispute.
“It’s a really tough period right now because this industry is going through a transition,” Silver said. “There’s no question about it. We have to be mindful of not taking our fans for granted. At some point, if our product becomes unavailable to them, they’re going to look for alternative ways to entertain themselves.”
Among the three major local distributors — Comcast, DISH and DirecTV — Altitude only has a distribution deal with DirecTV. Comcast has the largest market share in Denver, but the provider dropped Altitude, an independent regional sports network, after its contract lapsed in 2019.
“I wish I had a better answer that there was some short-term fix,” Silver said. “In some ways, Denver has been the canary in the mine because we’re seeing now that this issue is popping up in other markets in the country, maybe not in such an extreme way, but you have other teams that are still continuing to be distributed through traditional means but large segments of their fans aren’t able to get the games. Coming up with that in-market solution is at the top of our agenda right now.”
On Oct. 1, Comcast dropped MSG Network, which previously carried New York Knicks and New York Rangers games. Comcast, like it did with Altitude, claimed viewership didn’t justify the costs.
“We’re very focused on re-thinking the model in terms of the way our games are distributed now, so that even if games are on cable or satellite in the local market, that fans who don’t choose to subscribe to a larger bundle, aren’t disenfranchised from the league,” Silver said. “The numbers are particularly dramatic for our younger fans who generally either are not subscribing to cable or satellite, or to the extent they are, are largely using it to watch other platforms, using it as a broadband provider.”
Matt Hutchings, the COO of KSE, issued a statement regarding Silver’s comments when contacted by The Post.
“We appreciate the NBA and Commissioner Silver’s continued support in helping to get the Denver Nuggets back on Comcast and DISH. We are also working to create multiple options for the hundreds of thousands of fans in our territory who are being deprived of the opportunity to watch their favorite sports teams. Unfortunately, Comcast and DISH continue to charge fans for programming they want and are being denied. We encourage fans to call Comcast and DISH to demand that Altitude is put back on the air.”
The options Hutchings referenced, according to a league source, involve the possibility of alternative streaming options for Nuggets and Avalanche games. No timeline for when those might be available was provided.