Altitude Sports Impasse Continues As RSN Files Suit Against Comcast
Altitude Sports filed a lawsuit against Comcast for "violation of state and federal antitrust laws" in relation to the months-long negotiations to bring Avalanche and Nuggets games back to TV in Colorado, according to a front-page piece by Kyle Fredrickson of the DENVER POST. The 45-page complaint alleges Comcast "'wants to extinguish competition from Altitude' through stalled-out negotiations with financial terms that 'make no economic sense unless Comcast’s aim is to use its monopsony power to eliminate Altitude so that Comcast will control sports programming' in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming." A source said that Comcast's latest proposal to Altitude for broadcasting rights to Nuggets and Avalanche games "represented a 50-percent cut from the previously agreed-upon contract." Comcast also would "remove Altitude from an 'expanded basic package' to a 'sports tier' -- decreasing the percentage of subscribers reached from 70-85% down to 15-20%." The "lack of a middle ground sets the stage for a potentially lengthy court battle as the Altitude blackout on Comcast continues." Comcast "continues to charge its Denver market subscribers of Altitude a 'regional sports fee' -- although Comcast did reduce the monthly charge by $1.25." Altitude "reached a multi-year carriage rights agreement with DirecTV last month with undisclosed terms" (DENVER POST, 11/19). In Philadelphia, Christian Hetrick notes Comcast "called Altitude's lawsuit 'meritless.'" The company said that Altitude has "several distribution alternatives in an 'intensely competitive market' where Comcast has no competitive" RSNs (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/19).
OTHER CONCERN: THE ATHLETIC's Ryan Clark noted the lawsuit also has a "subsection titled 'Professional Hockey in the Denver DMA' stating Comcast has control of the NHL through one of its subsidiaries" in NBCSN. The document "states NBCSN has the rights to televise nearly 100 regular-season games while providing other features like, 'Wednesday Night Hockey.'" NBCSN, as mentioned in the document, will "broadcast the 'maximum number'" of Avalanche games this season. Altitude also "states Comcast is a partial owner in the NHL Network which owns and operates NHL TV and 'therefore has partial ownership and control, and a share of the profits, of the NHL TV product'" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/18).