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Altitude lifts the blackouts, but can streaming really work in the future?




EDMONTON, ALBERTA – If you weren’t a subscriber to DIRECTV, if you didn’t want to feel like a criminal and look at games over illegal, pirate streaming websites, if all you had for cable television was Comcast or DISH Network and you really wanted to watch Colorado Avalanche games? You were SOL. But not anymore, friends. Altitude has lifted the blackouts.

In a nutshell: Even though Altitude will still do their own broadcasts of the Avs’ first-round series with Arizona and even though Altitude as a channel isn’t even available to watch if you’re a Comcast or DISH subscriber, you will now be able to see the Avs on the NBC Sports Network or one of its sister channels.

Altitude, in a statement today, agreed to lift their territorial rights that allows them to, by contract, have other channels in that territory that broadcast the games blacked out. Here’s the statement:

Altitude would like to clarify a number of misreports surrounding the availability of Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche playoff games within the Denver area.  Altitude, by virtue of a multiyear agreement with the NHL, has agreed to waive its exclusive broadcast rights in Denver for the first round of the Avalanche’s playoff run.  Under NBA rules, Altitude has also waived its exclusivity for Nugget’s first-round playoff games.

Effectively, this means that first-round Avalanche playoff games, that will be shown nationally on NBCSN, NHL Network, and CNBC, will be available throughout the Denver metro area.  In the case of the Nuggets, any of their first-round playoff games being shown on TNT and ESPN will also be available in Denver.  These playoff games will also be available on Altitude via DIRECTV and Charter Cable. 

“Our fans have been ignored and dismissed by both Comcast and DISH Network continuing to blackout their hometown Network” Altitude President, Matt Hutchings said.  “We have never wanted our fans to miss a minute of action during Nuggets and Avalanche playoff runs.”

Altitude worked with the NBA and NHL to allow these games to reach maximum distribution throughout the front range.  Additionally, Altitude is actively pursuing O.T.T. (Over-The-Top) streaming distribution deals that would expand and augment Altitude’s coverage.

“The relationships with the NBA and NHL allow the playoff runs for our teams to be watched by all of our fans.  We continue to encourage Comcast to value these same fans by bringing back the Nuggets, Avs, and Altitude to their channel lineups for entire seasons,” said Hutchings.  “It’s a shame that Comcast continues to play games instead of airing games.  Unlike Comcast, our goal has always been to put our fans first.”

Pretty nice job of Altitude giving the middle finger to Comcast there. Altitude has now grabbed the mantle of “the good guys” in this never-ending pissing match of two big-money entities, so good on them. They’re still going to take a financial bath without Comcast distribution, though, now and into the future. Altitude said it themselves for months and months: a streaming thing wouldn’t work for them financially. Yeah, the die-hard fans would/will pay for an Altitude streaming channel.

But what about the Mom and Pop fan, the Joe Sixpack fan who 1. Doesn’t know anything about streaming 2. Doesn’t want the hassle of setting up a streaming thing and 3. Doesn’t want to pay for it?

It’s a looooot easier to make a loooooot more money when you have a massive distribution arm like a Comcast beaming your product to loooooots and looooots more people, which can then be translated into big ad dollars from companies who want to reach the most people they can for their products.

You can make money on subscribers from streaming, but only if you’re a Disney or a…Comcast itself. A small regional sports company? Good luck with that.

That said, I hope Altitude call pull it off. In the meantime, welcome back to the Colorado Avalanche hockey club, Comcast and DISH subscribers.

“I’m excited for our fan base, for all the fans of Colorado,” Avs captain Gabe Landeskog told me this afternoon, when I asked him about it. “We can feel their support.”

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