Nuggets, Avs on Free TV This Weekend, but No Break in Comcast Deadlock

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic looks to pass during the team's 108-100 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers last October.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic looks to pass during the team's 108-100 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers last October. Abbie Parr/Getty Images
Last October, months after Comcast, DISH and DIRECTV had removed Altitude TV from their lineups amid an ongoing contract dispute, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, which runs the sports specialist for KSE namesake and gajillionaire Stan Kroenke, agreed to show a Denver Nuggets game on free TVKTVD/Channel 20. But Matt Hutchings, the president of Altitude Sports as well as KSE's chief operating officer, told us that "continuing to put games on over-the-air networks isn't economically viable" and suggested that the broadcast was a gift to Nuggets fans that was unlikely to be repeated.

Still, at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 1, the Nuggets will be back on KTVD for a contest against the NBA defending champion Toronto Raptors, while the Colorado Avalanche, another squad owned by Kroenke, will pop up on Channel 20 at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, March 2, to skate against the Detroit Red Wings.

These moves indicate an attempt by KSE execs to remind sports fans that Altitude TV still exists amid a reported viewership plunge of 72 percent this season, despite a peace treaty with one carrier, DIRECTV, last fall. Meanwhile, Altitude TV's monopoly lawsuit against Comcast, originally put forward in November 2019, continues to slowly slog its way through the legal system. In January, Comcast filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, and since then, the court maneuvering has kept attorneys on both sides of the dispute very, very busy.

Indeed, the current docket related to the case shows a slew of actions since our most recent update, on January 22. They include a January 23 scheduling order; a February 5 motion "to stay Comcast's motion to stay discovery pending decision on its motion to dismiss"; the filing of an amended complaint that same day, which rendered Comcast's motion moot, according to Judge William J. Martinez; a February 7 motion for a time extension to respond to the amended complaint; a February 10 memorandum related to the time-extension motion; a February 10 order granting a time extension until today, February 28; a February 13 motion "to stay discovery pending decision on its forthcoming motion to dismiss the amended complaint filed by Comcast Corporation"; and a February 14 memorandum regarding that motion.

Matt Hutchings is the president of Altitude Sports and an executive with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.
The current impasse is clearly hurting fans — but it's a big win for lawyers in search of billable hours.

Because of the litigation, Altitude Sports president Hutchings has generally deferred comment on the situation to attorneys such as William Isaacson, from the law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP. When asked about Comcast's motion to dismiss last month, Isaacson said: "One need only to read the complaint to understand that Comcast wants to kill off Altitude’s competition. The complaint clearly states Comcast is illegally using monopoly power to harm consumers and drive Altitude from the market, and we look forward to proving that in court."

Comcast spokesperson Leslie Oliver fired back with this: "Instead of negotiating with Comcast in good faith to reach a mutually acceptable deal, Altitude filed meritless legal claims in an attempt to force Comcast to pay more than Altitude’s content is worth. We think it’s unfair to our customers who do not want to watch the games to overpay to subsidize a network that has numerous distribution options in addition to Comcast, such as other video service providers, online video channels and directly to consumers."

Hutchings does offer a fresh statement in a release about the KTVD games — and his remarks attempt to turn a phrase used in the comment above against Comcast. "We’re upset that many of our Nuggets and Avalanche fans are missing out on two special seasons because Comcast and DISH Network refuse to negotiate in good faith," he says.

"We’d like to thank DIRECTV for allowing us to offer these games on over-the-air broadcast television within our home market," Hutchings adds. "We applaud DIRECTV for being a team player and allowing KTVD to televise these pivotal match-ups as we enter the home stretch of this season."

Altitude TV is also continuing to promote a petition beseeching Comcast and DISH to "Bring Back My Nuggets, Avalanche, Rapids & Mammoth." The number of signatures has now exceeded 45,000 — a hefty response, but  apparently not one large enough to cause the two carriers to blink.

Even with the NBA and NHL playoffs just around the corner.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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