10:58am PT by Eriq Gardner
Comcast Hit With Antitrust Suit Over Denver-Area Sports Network
Stan Kroenke, one of the most powerful owners in professional sports, is going to war with Comcast over the way the cable giant has allegedly bullied one of his regional sports networks. On Monday, Kroenke's Altitude Sports filed an antitrust complaint in Colorado related to a negotiating impasse that has prevented Comcast's subscribers from seeing most Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche games.
Altitude Sports is one of the entities affiliated with Kroenke's sports empire. He also owns the NFL's Los Angeles Rams as well as Arsenal in the U.K.'s Premier League. Unlike other RSNs, Altitude is independent of any cable or satellite distributor.
In the past few months, Altitude has battled various distributors including DirecTV and Dish in the negotiating room, and inability to settle on fees has led to blackouts, which, of course, has the negotiating parties pointing fingers.
Altitude's latest salvo is a lawsuit about six weeks after the regional sports network went dark on Comcast for the first time in 15 years.
"During the same fifteen years of the relationship between Comcast and Altitude, Comcast has acquired independent RSNs all over the country in order to reduce competition for the licensing of sports programming," states the complaint. "Comcast has also engaged in a series of large mergers and acquisitions that strengthen its control over multichannel television distribution in the Denver DMA and around the country."
As further alleged in the complaint, Comcast seeks to take over regional sports production in Denver.
"Against this backdrop, in the past year, Comcast began making demands in negotiations with Altitude that Comcast knew made no economic sense and would drive Altitude out of business," continues the complaint." The demands represent dramatic cuts in rates to be paid to Altitude. Comcast’s proposals would also require subscribers that want to receive Altitude’s programming to pay even more to Comcast each month by moving Altitude from one of Comcast’s more widely distributed packages of channels to a package of television programming services for which the customer would have to pay an additional fee."
Represented by attorneys at Boies Schiller, Altitude adds that Comcast hasn't made such demands on its own affiliated RSNs throughout the country.
We've reached out to Comcast for comment.