Jettisoned by Comcast and Dish Network in 2019, regional sports network Altitude Sports has faced a tough climb in the Mile High City, where Comcast is the dominant cable provider.
On Thursday, Altitude Sports -- the exclusive RSN home of the NBA's Denver Nuggets and NHL's Colorado Avalanche -- signed a carriage agreement with virtual pay TV service fubo TV, which will run the channel in 10 Rocky Mountain-centric and adjacent states: Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Northern New Mexico, Northeast Nevada and Southwest South Dakota.
The inclusion of a virtual MVPD to its carriage portfolio adds to distribution Altitude already has on Charter Communications linear cable outside the Denver region, as well as on DirecTV linear satellite and the IP-delivered DirecTV Stream.
Notably, Altitude is also available via ATSC 3.0-based pay TV service Evoca, which also delivers AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, home of Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies, in an ultra-skinny bundle of mainly broadcast channels and RSNs delivered for only $25 a month.
RSN Finds a Way
Certainly, the ability to tie themselves to lucrative RSN contracts can make the difference between boon or bust for pro sports teams and collegiate athletic conferences.
In Next TV's home market, the Los Angeles Dodgers have thrived on a 25-year, $8.35 billion contract signed with the erstwhile Time Warner Cable in 2013 for carriage on SportsNet LA, now owned by Charter Communications. The Dodgers, which just finished with an all-time National League best 110 wins, have made the postseason 10 consecutive seasons, with the team able to withstand sizable luxury tax penalties each year.
Conversely, the lightly regarded Pac-12 network -- available only via fubo TV and Sling TV in the all-important Southern California market -- has been signaled out as catalyst for a decision made by lynchpin Pac-12 schools USC and UCLA to leave the conference in 2024 and head to the Big Ten, a league far more flush with RSN coin.
In August, the Big Ten Network signed a new carriage deal that will net its 16 constituents more than $1 billion dollars a year.
Conversely, the Pac-12 Network earned only $43 million in the COVID-impacted 2020 collegiate athletic season after generating $118 million in 2019. The RSN hopes to up its revenue with its own pending new TV deal, but that will likely look nothing like the largesse negotiated by the Big Ten or SEC.
With national TV deals with Fox Sports and ESPN factored in, all told, the Pac-12's media efforts generated only $30 million for the conference's 12 programs in 2022.
It's no wonder that UCLA, which recently reported debt of $102.8 million for its athletic department, agreed to join USC in making a radical shift in conference affiliation.
Big Clients Call for Creative Distribution
Owned by Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, Altitude Sports recently lost distribution of Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids, after MLS signed a 10-year deal with Apple TV.
Indeed, the tech giants pose a grave competitive risk for regional sports channels, as the pay TV ecosystem dwindles. Their distribution partners may not be willing to pay more, but their league and team constituents are beginning to have more TV revenue options.
Next TV couldn't find program licensing information for the Nuggets, a perennial NBA playoff contender featuring back-to-back MVP winner Nikola Jokić, and the Avalanche, which are coming off the franchise's third Stanley Cup win in June.
Suffice it to say that with both franchises at the top of their respective games, Altitude Sports needs to keep its head and revenue up.
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!
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