This is not your ordinary post you'll find on my blog. So if you are here for just tech, this probably isn't the post for you. That being said, in my original post for this blog I mentioned that I might talk about business and sports at times, and that is exactly what this post is going to be about.
I live in Denver, CO where we have a team in every major professional sports league. Today we are going to be discussing the Colorado Avalanche (NHL) and Denver Nuggets (NBA). Both teams are owned by Stan Kroenke and his family, managed by his company Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, and broadcasted to fans via his regional sports network (RSN) Altitude TV. Now if you go to Altitude TV's website at the time of writing this, you will notice huge ads and banners at the top of the page telling cable subscribers to call their cable company to put their channel back on the air. This is WRONG for so many reasons, and I'm going to dive into it in this post.
A bit of background information. Altitude TV is the exclusive TV channel for all the Kroenke's Colorado teams. On August 28th, 2019 Altitude was dropped by Dish Network, followed 3 days later by Comcast and DirecTV. Right before the start of highly anticipated seasons for both the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche. Altitude immediately started the PR blitz, tweeting about it constantly, pushing the narrative that they are the victims of these big bad cable companies, trying to gain sympathy from the fans. The truth is they don't care about the fans one bit. Sure, they showed one game for each team on local channels, a empty gesture, considering we are getting closer to the half way point in each of their seasons. What is truly unique about this contract dispute is the fact that it happened with 3 major providers at the same time. That is not normal, and indicates that Altitude is the party being difficult in renegotiations. Now of course, DirecTV & Altitude came to an agreement (finally), but this was well after the seasons started, and isn't relevant to this post considering how Altitude is determined to keep fans involved as billionaires of companies fight over what would be pennies to them.
Altitude continuously has claimed that they are offering the same or very similar deals to the previous contract to each of the providers. This fails to recognize that in the US TV subscriptions are down, with AT&T reporting a 946k million TV subscriber loss in Q2 of 2019. Of course it's unreasonable to expect these TV providers to make the same deal as before. Yet Altitude TV continues to push the victim card, by continuously asking fans to call their providers and demand to restore Altitude to their TV package.
So what can Altitude TV do about this? Well to start they can come up with a new innovative business model. But as they discuss in the Tweet above, it's not "possible" for them to. Of course they didn't give any information to back this up, so it's impossible to tell if they are telling the truth here. Based on the subscriber losses of TV providers, in a few more years they won't be considered "broad-based distribution" either, which is what they claim they need.
Their next Tweet tho, is really what made me decide to write this post, due to just how HUGE of a lie it is. In their first Tweet, they claim "The regional sports business was built on broad-based distribution of programming". Which is basically saying all regional sports networks require this "broad-based distribution". Then in this latest tweet, they claim they can't stream on YouTube TV or Hulu due to this same "broad-based distribution issue". Well I got news for you Altitude. Between 74-79% of NHL & NBA teams regional sports network partner stream on these platforms. I spent a good amount of time working on compiling the data to prove how wrong Altitude is in this claim. Because, I believe data is important, instead of a two sentence tweet about how streaming platforms are not viable, with no numbers or facts. Throughout all of this Altitude has been very light on the facts. At the end of this post I have posted additional information about the data I gathered (including ways to download and contribute to it).
So this all could mean the second tweet I posted could mean one of three things:
- Altitude's business model is flawed, and they are the only network that requires this "broad-based distribution".
- Altitude has not negotiated in good faith with YouTube TV or Hulu to reach an agreement, or are unwilling to change their business model and wish to remain stuck in the dinosaur ages of sports TV.
- It's a lie.
Keep in mind, a lot of the RSN's in smaller markets than Denver support streaming. With even a smaller "broad-based distribution" than Altitude would have.
Now, one could make the argument that these other networks have broad-based distribution because Fox Sports for example owns roughly half of the RSN market for NBA and NHL, so they are in a better position to negotiate. If that is the case, then Altitude needs to have serious discussions with these bigger RSN companies about selling themselves.
Altitude selling to a bigger RSN company would lead to great benefits for all fans and the industry at large. But if this is the case, Altitude has not been honest with the fans like they have claimed to be. If 74-79% of these other networks have partnered with online streaming platforms, if 3 major TV providers failed to get a new contract signed at the SAME time, if they continue to spew lies that aren't backed up by real data, you really have to start asking yourself, why should we trust anything Altitude has to say at this point?
In the paragraph after the second tweet, I mentioned a dataset that I had created that showed regional sports networks per market. I have attached the relevant information on how to access that data below, along with an image of all the data I collected.