By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado Avalanche fans can’t wait for the regular season to begin Thursday night, but as of now, most fans won’t be able to watch their hometown team on television. Altitude Sports is currently in a weeks-long dispute with three big TV service providers about carrying the channel.

ALTITUDE BLACKOUT

(credit: CBS)

Altitude has carried countless Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, and other local sports teams’ games over the last 15 years. It’s owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, which also owns the Avalanche and Nuggets.

Executive Vice President and COO of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, Matt Hutchings, said contracts with Comcast, DISH and DirecTV came up in September. Since then, the entities have been unable to come up with a new agreement.

“To the fans of the teams and the network, we’re very concerned and we’re sorry that a deal is not done yet,” Hutchings said. “I can assure them that we have been very proactive in trying to put different offers on the table.”

ALTITUDE BLACKOUT

Matt Hutchings (credit: CBS)

In an interview with CBS4 on Tuesday, Hutchings said Altitude’s initial offer to the providers was similar to past agreements. One difference, according to Hutchings, was a request for a “moderate” consumer price index increase. The parties were not able to come to an agreement after counter offers by the providers.

Two of the three providers, Comcast and DirecTV, which are owned by AT&T, have their own regional sports networks. On Monday, AT&T Sports Network announced a multi-year extension with the Colorado Rockies.

“We don’t think we’re being unreasonable at all,” Hutchings said. “We don’t think it was a fair offer, and we think we’re being treated and singled out differently than their own networks.”

ALTITUDE BLACKOUT

(credit: CBS)

DirecTV’s parent company, AT&T, tells CBS4 it made “a fair offer to keep the channel available, but Altitude rejected it.”

In a separate release, DISH accused Altitude Sports of “attempting to force its channel upon DISH customers, by demanding payment on a guaranteed minimum number of subscribers.”

“This comes down to Altitude demanding payment on a guaranteed minimum number of customers,” said Andy LeCuyer, DISH senior vice president of Programming. “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.”

Comcast did not respond to requests for comment by CBS4.

“We love our Avalanche, we love our Nuggets,” said Greg Ferguson, a fan who often visits Denver hockey bar, Sobo 151, to watch Avalanche games. “It’s only affecting the fans; it’s not affecting them.”

ALTITUDE BLACKOUT

(credit: CBS)

As of Tuesday afternoon, Sobo 151 employees said the bar’s management was still trying to figure out what to do if the Avalanche’s home opener isn’t on TV.

“We got a lot of phone calls now,” said Jiri Stekla, a bartender. “We don’t know what’s going to be if Altitude doesn’t have it, so we don’t know what to do.”

More than 90 miles away in Brush, Barbara Naeve is also worried about missing out on the beginning of the hockey season. The self-described “Avalanche fanatic” said she never misses a game on TV, but on Thursday she likely won’t have a choice.

“I just try not to think about it,” Naeve said. “The little bits you see on local news just make it all the worse because I didn’t get to see it. It’s just mean.”

If the dispute continues, Nuggets fans could run into the same dilemma. The team’s first regular-season game is Oct. 23.

Conor McCue

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