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Adam Silver on Altitude/Comcast dispute over Nuggets games: ‘It doesn’t make sense’

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to reporters before Game 1 of the NBA Basketball Finals between the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat, Thursday, June 1, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has a brother in Boulder, which is why he hears all the time about blackouts that continue to prevent Nuggets fans from watching Nuggets games.

Silver said Thursday night before Game 1 of the NBA Finals that he is frustrated by the “terrible situation” that is the ongoing matchup between Comcast and Altitude TV, the regional sports network that broadcasts Nuggets games and Colorado Avalanche.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Silver said, “and it’s up to us to fix it.”

Altitude sued Comcast shortly after its carrier contract expired in September 2019, accusing the cable giant of violating antitrust laws. The two sides reached an agreement in March, but remain in an impasse that kept Avalanche and Nuggets games in Colorado suspended for the remainder of the 2022-23 seasons. Local Comcast customers have not been able to watch the two Kroenke Sports & Entertainment franchises since the contract expired in 2019.

“The league office has tried to mediate between the parties multiple times,” Silver said. “It is a commercial dispute, and there has not been an easy solution. There’s no doubt it’s bad for the fans, of course.”

Silver said the conflict is especially frustrating for him because of the Nuggets’ success as a top seed in the Western Conference with a two-time MVP.

Silver cited a conversation he had with the Nuggets and Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke more than a year ago to point out that the conflict is part of a larger issue involving RSNs and the future of NBA broadcasting. He said that Kroenke told him that Altitude vs. Comcast was “a canary in a mine in terms of the breakdown of the regional sports network model.” Diamond Sports Group, the largest RSN owner with 19 networks under the Bally Sports brand, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

“One of the things that has changed considerably since this dispute began is the arrival of many more streaming platforms. Better digital broadcast technology,” Silver said, noting that the NBA must soon embark on negotiations for new national deals, as the current associations have two years left. “I hope this is a period that we remember when we say we went through a transition and got to a place where a fan, wherever they are, can watch every game. Most likely it will be through some kind of digital offering.”

Get off Malone’s back

In terms of seeing the Nuggets in person, coach Michael Malone has noticed a convenient increase in ticket requests from his acquaintances.