Altitude Sports and Comcast remain at odds after settling lawsuit

After several years of confrontation in court, Altitude Sports & Entertainment and Comcast Corporation have reached a settlement in an ongoing federal antitrust lawsuit. But, while a sign of possible progress in a larger, ongoing dispute, the two remain at odds over a haul deal, leaving local Avalanche and Nuggets fans in the dark.

The cable company and regional sports network announced the settlement, which is confidential, Friday afternoon. According to Comcast, the parties will soon file a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice to the trial.

Altitude previously sued Comcast for alleged antitrust violations in 2019. In the lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, the Denver sports network claimed that Comcast wanted to Altitude” and “strengthen your control”. on multi-channel television distribution in the Denver DMA and nationwide. »

Comcast has denied those allegations and called the lawsuit “baseless,” saying it remains willing to distribute Altitude’s content in a way that won’t increase rates for virtually all customers.

The settlement apparently marks the end of a bitter legal impasse, but will not resolve the ongoing dispute between the media company and the cable company, a Comcast spokesperson said.

“It’s clear – Kroenke Sports controls the teams, the arena and the Altitude network. The ball is in their court to do the right thing and make it available to their fans, regardless of their service provider “said Leslie Oliver, Chief Communications Officer of Comcast Colorado. “Comcast has always been clear that we want to make the games available to fans who want to watch them without charging everyone else.”

The years-long transportation dispute began in 2019 when an agreement between the two entities ended. As a result, all Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets games were blocked for Comcast customers, who make up about 92% of cable subscribers in the market, Altitude said in court documents.

During negotiations, Altitude asked Comcast for a “moderate increase in the consumer price index,” company executives previously told CBS New Colorado. Comcast said it would increase charges for almost all customers, while only a select few watch Altitude.

According to Friday’s joint statement, Comcast and Altitude “remain open to discussing potential future commercial and distribution agreements.”

A Comcast Colorado spokeswoman told CBS News Colorado that the company previously offered to make the network available to customers on a standalone subscription basis, as is the case with HBO or Netflix. This would allow customers who want the channel to get it, while the vast majority, who Comcast says don’t watch the channel, won’t have to pay for it.

Matt Hutchings, president and CEO of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment Media Ventures, which owns and operates Altitude Sports, said the company wants to be treated the same as other regional sports networks across the country. According to Hutchings, the network asked Comcast in July for the same deal it gave AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain, home of the Colorado Rockies.

“Comcast wants to make an example of Colorado’s independent regional sports network, Altitude Sports,” Hutchings said in October.

Experts say the ongoing dispute is part of a larger issue seen across the country, where regional sports networks (RSNs) and cable companies continue to clash in a rapidly changing media landscape.

In some cities, wrangling over subscription fees led to similar outages. There have also been other issues involving RSNs, including Diamond Sports Group, the company that owns Bally Sports, which recently filed for bankruptcy after missing interest payments to bondholders.

“The whole model of sports television is broken right now,” Darrin Duber-Smith, senior lecturer at Metropolitan State University of Denver’s School of Business, told CBS News Colorado. “You’re at a point where something has to give, and I think the Avalanche and Comcast are on the front lines of this much larger conflict.”

Conor McCue

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