Comcast-Altitude: Second mediation effort does not bring closure to TV blackout
The Comcast-Altitude TV blackout is threatening to impact a fourth consecutive season of local Avalanche, Nuggets and Rapids game broadcasts.
A second mediation attempt on Tuesday to resolve their ongoing antitrust lawsuit did not provide a resolution, according to Comcast spokeswomen Leslie Oliver. It is unclear when the parties will meet again.
But it’s now possible the blackout will extend into fall when the Avalanche and Nuggets begin their respective 2022-23 seasons.
“We appreciate the court’s efforts to facilitate these conversations,” Oliver said in a statement to The Denver Post. “We are fans of the Avs, Nuggets and Rapids, and we share the Colorado hockey fans’ excitement around the Avs amazing Stanley Cup win. We’ve presented options for some time to Altitude for how we could carry the games without raising rates for all Comcast customers. And we continue to remain open to continuing discussions with Altitude.”
Altitude did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In December, Altitude announced an updated position in contract negotiations with plans for a new offer. The regional sports network (RSN) stated in a news release that it would “bring the case to a close and return the network to Comcast for Front Range fans.” The parties met for mediation on Tuesday and previously in February.
More than six months passed since Altitude’s statement with still no deal. Neither side is willing to comment on progress toward an agreement. In April, an Altitude spokesman told The Denver Post: “One of the conditions the parties agreed to when entering mediation was that KSE and Altitude would not issue any public comments on matters related to the meditation while it is ongoing.”
Three years of regular season Avalanche, Nuggets and Rapids local game broadcasts (2019-21) have been unavailable on Comcast in Colorado. That’s 92% of all cable subscribers in 48 counties across the state — according to Altitude’s initial court filing — who missed Nikola Jokic’s back-to-back MVP runs and the Avalanche winning a Stanley Cup. Altitude has also not reached an agreement with DISH Network. The RSN is available locally on DirecTV and Evoca TV.
Comcast’s absence has led to declined team viewership. The Nuggets were on track in February for the lowest local TV broadcast ratings last season of any NBA market in at least 15 years, according to the Sports Business Journal.
The blackout stems from a disagreement over the validity of Comcast’s business tactics in renegotiating a new contract with Altitude after their previous deal expired in September 2019. Altitude filed an antitrust lawsuit claiming that Comcast negotiated with terms that “make no economic sense” in order to buy or eliminate Altitude. Comcast argued the RSN conflated a “routine commercial disagreement” with a violation of antitrust laws.
The problem is not unique to Denver. In New York, the RSN (MSG Network) broadcasting local Rangers and Knicks games has not been available on Comcast since October 2021 due to a similar contract dispute with the cable giant.