Altitude Goes Dark to Dish Customers

Regional sports network Altitude Sports and Entertainment made good on its promise that Dish Network customers would be without its Colorado sports team coverage unless its carriage deal was renewed by midnight, going dark to the satellite TV service’s subscribers as the clock struck 12 on Aug. 29.

The blackout affected Dish customers in nine states -- Colorado, Utah, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Altitude Sports and Entertainment is owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, the sports team and arena vehicle of billionaire Stan Kroenke. Altitude carries games from the NHL Colorado Avalanche, the NBA Denver Nuggets, Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth and college sports from the University of Denver. On Wednesday, the channel warned it could go dark at midnight Wednesday if a deal with Dish isn’t reached. The channel also has renewal agreements with DirecTV and Comcast that expire on Saturday (Aug. 31). 

The blackout comes as preseason games for the Avalanche (Sept. 17) and the Nuggets (Oct. 8) draw near. 

In a press release Thursday, Dish blamed the blackout on Altitude’s demand that a new deal includes a guaranteed minimum of subscribers, as well as high affiliate fees.

“This comes down to Altitude demanding payment on a guaranteed minimum number of customers,” said Dish senior vice president of programming Andy LeCuyer in a press release. “We’re no longer going to support the broken regional sports TV business model that seeks to have the majority of pay-TV customers pay for the few who watch.”

Dish directed customers to its website for more information.

According to Altitude, Dish, DirecTV and Comcast have carried the RSN for 15 years, but despite the network’s good-faith efforts to negotiate, the distributors “want to play by their own rules and are making unrealistic demands on Altitude. Their actions will affect hundreds of thousands of regional sports fans and negatively impact hundreds of local businesses that continue to support their home teams.”

This is the second regional sports network to go dark for Dish customers. In July, 15 Fox RSNs and the YES Network went dark after Dish could not reach a deal. Dish chairman Charlie Ergen warned that unless a compromise is made, the Fox RSNs may never be carried by the satellite TV service provider. 

Dish also is in negotiations with Disney regarding five networks -- FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic and National Geographic WILD -- that were scheduled to go dark on Aug. 28. Disney granted Dish an extension to avoid a blackout, and sources said talks were progressing.