December 23, 2020
Evidence of the Comcast-Altitude dispute last
season. When it was called the Pepsi Center. And when fans were allowed in.
The Nuggets opened their season with a 124-122 overtime loss
to Sacramento Wednesday night.
No fans were allowed
in the Peps ... in Ball Arena.
Comcast subscribers in the Denver area -- and that's many of us -- couldn't watch the Altitude television broadcast.
We're used to it by now in the regular season.
It's still perplexing and maddening.
Although it seems as if the Nuggets and Avalanche finished
last season about three weeks ago -- it actually wasn't much longer than that -- I was just assuming that there was no way
this would be allowed to happen again.
Not in the new seasons for the Kroenke Sports and Entertainment franchises.
But it sure is.
Like Arthur Fonzarelli, I was wrong.
anti-trust lawsuit against Comcast is pending and delayed, complicating matters.
I've ... we've ... been through this many times
over the past 15 months. This is galling, too: So little has changed, for my detailed views, I can direct you to this commentary I wrote for woodypaige.com in October 2019, framing it in the national context. It's still worthy of national attention
because of ongoing and similar carriage disputes involving sports franchises and networks around the country.
And most of it still
applies, other than the fact that Altitude closed a deal with DirecTV.
It still comes back to this: It's a business dispute between gazillionaires and mega-companies.
Altitude is owned
by a sports and entertainment empire controlled by a wing of the wealthiest family in the nation. To portray Altitude as the
equivalent of a little underdog corner market is insulting. KSE's SoFi Stadium, home of the KSE-owned Rams (and tenant Chargers),
cost $5.5 billion. The Nuggets paid backup center Mason Plumlee $14 million in 2019-20. The Avalanche is paying winger Mikko
Rantanen $12 million per season. Those all are costs of doing business.
KSE/Altitude found Comcast's
offer, a major cut from the previous agreement, to be literally unacceptable. That's a business dispute.
Walmart goes through
that type of haggling with its suppliers.
Whether, as is alleged, corporate behemoth Comcast illegally is trying to put Altitude
out of business is for the courts to decide ... if it gets that far.
The business angle I find hard to understand is KSE's refusal to bargain hard, even
if it's for nearly two years, get the best deal it can get and then holding noses as the agreement is signed. Even if it has
to be considered a relative loss leader. Accepting a "horrrible" deal, regardless of the bottom line, can be a "loss"
leader, part of the promotional cost of doing business.
If the business model -- regional sports networks owned by team
ownerships -- no longer is viable in the cord-cutting and streaming age, fold or sell.
But here we are: The Nuggets are on the
fringe of the NBA's elite. The Avalanche is there already, with its failure to get out of the second round in the Edmonton
bubble mainly attributable to its bizarre injury siege. Colorado is a legit Stanley Cup threat again.
The bizarre, trying circumstances
are part of this. Nuggets and Avalanche fans can't go to games. And they're still essentially blacked out.
That can't continue.
Or can it?