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20 questions: Will Nuggets fans watch games on Altitude TV this year?

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Altitude TV is synonymous with Denver Nuggets basketball. Will Nuggets fans get to enjoy the broadcasts this year?

Western Conference Semifinals - Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets haven’t been on national television very often.

For a team that I have watched for several years, ever since the 2008-09 season, it’s always apparent when the Nuggets are in fact on the big stage. Generally, the color commentator will say something that’s only partially true about the make-up of the Nuggets as a whole, or the announcer will repeatedly mispronounce a player’s name. Nikola Jokic, for whatever reason, was a really difficult one during his rookie season despite probably being Denver’s most competent player at such a young age.

It’s for this reason that I grew fond of the commentary duo of Chris Marlowe and Scott Hastings on Altitude TV. Some of the best commentating calls I can remember were made by Marlowe and Hastings, especially in some of the weirdest games. The one that stood out most clearly was an and-1 circus layup by Danilo Gallinari during the 2012-13 season, In the words of the esteemed Marlowe, it was “the shot of the century.”

For Nuggets fans with Comcast (like me), DirecTV, or DISH Network, listening to Hastings and Marlowe is about to get much harder.

As many well know, Altitude TV is in a major contract dispute with the above three major networks over how much money Altitude will receive to continue producing content. From Nuggets games, to hockey and the Colorado Avalanche, to soccer and the Colorado Rapids, to high school football games, Altitude broadcasts a variety of non-NFL and MLB sports content and does a great job with it. From creative documentaries like the one produced covering Nuggets legendary player/coach Doug Moe to a studio show for each sport, Altitude has provided some of the shine when the Nuggets are good and helped ease the pain when the Nuggets are bad. They are very important to the Nuggets local brand.

Unfortunately, regional sports networks aren’t highly profitable for companies like Comcast, and because of that, the importance of the work Altitude does may not necessarily matter. This is a business after all, and with the world trending ever closer to streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, it’s no wonder that cable companies are feeling the squeeze on profits and are looking for every dollar possible. Each of these corporate giants are looking for an advantageous deal, and until somebody blinks, no one wins.

Colorado sports fans are already feeling the affects of the contract dispute. The Avalanche won their opening game of the season 5-3 against the Calgary Flames last night, but nobody in Colorado with the above three cable networks saw the game live. This drastically reduces the shine on what should be an excellent Avalanche season coming up, and the Nuggets are about to be caught in the crossfire too. Denver’s first preseason game on October 8th will be broadcast on ESPN, but the final three games will not be seen by Nuggets fans unless they watch Denver’s only home preseason game on October 17th.

Denver will play 58 total regular season games with no national ties whatsoever, meaning Altitude is responsible for carrying over two-thirds of Denver’s season by itself. Being unable to watch two-thirds of Denver’s games would become untenable for Nuggets fans, who have been kicking down Pepsi Center’s doors to see a true championship contender for over a decade. Not broadcasting games for such a promising young organization would be despicable, especially since they would be the biggest show in Denver following the Rockies’ disappointing year and during the Broncos’ current eight-game losing streak spanning two seasons.

Whatever needs to happen simply has to at this point. All sides lose if Nuggets games aren’t shown. The cable companies lose revenue. Altitude loses revenue. The fans are the most important in this situation though with hard earned dollars and time spent dedicated to watching a team that doesn’t show up on TV. They fund the entire sport through their interest and willingness to shell out cash to watch games. Pissing off fans would be the final straw in this case, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver isn’t going to let that happen for too long before taking drastic action.

Will Altitude finally break and sign the contract these cable companies are offering? Will the cable companies back down first? Time will tell, but I expect this deal to get done before the season. Both entities know how important Nuggets games are going forward, and I’d expect concessions to be made on both sides before meeting in the middle on a deal nobody really wants to make.

Either way, Nuggets games are fast approaching, and imagining Michael Porter Jr. and Jerami Grant missing their Nuggets debuts because billionaires are fighting about money is not an enjoyable scene.