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Fans cheers as the Colorado Avalanche prepare to take the ice during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, 2019 at the Pepsi Center. Photo by Russell Lansford / Icon Sportswire

This Might Be the Darkest Hour for Professional Sports in Denver

As if the Broncos and Rockies weren’t bad enough, an ongoing TV dispute means we can’t even watch the Avalanche, Rapids, and Nuggets—teams that are actually worth following right now.

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When it comes to Denver sports, things are worse than you think they are.

The Broncos season is doomed. They’ve lost eight straight games, if you include the abysmal end to the 2018 season. Joe Flacco is the quarterback, linebacker Bradley Chubb just tore his ACL, and if there’s any light at the end of the tunnel, it’s probably a high first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft.

And let’s not forget the Rockies were so inexplicably bad this year that it was an enormous relief when, 20 games below the .500 mark, their season finally ended on September 29. After back-to-back playoff appearances in 2017 and 2018, the Rockies were a true letdown this year,  and there’s not much money left to fix their problems in the offseason. 

It’s been a rough several months, but October should have brought some relief for Denver sports fans. The Avalanche are young, widely regarded as one of the best teams in the NHL, and their regular season begins October 3. The Nuggets also have high expectations. After a playoff run last year, the squad is an early favorite to win the Western Conference this season, which officially begins October 23. And the Rapids—you know, Colorado’s professional soccer team—they’re pretty exciting right now, too. They still have an outside chance of making the MLS playoffs heading into the season’s final game on October 6. 

But there’s a big problem: Unless Altitude Sports—which owns broadcasting rights to the Avalanche, Nuggets, Rapids, and Mammoth—reaches a deal with its three major TV providers in Denver (Comcast, Dish Network, and DirecTV), very few people in the city will be able to watch the games. 

The ongoing dispute essentially boils down to re-transmission fees. Comcast, Dish, and DirecTV pay Altitude for rights to distribute the games, but the contracts that determine how much those companies pay expired in late August after 15 years. Over the past several weeks, Altitude has been negotiating with each of the providers in an attempt to strike a new deal—but it’s not going well. Indicators suggest it won’t be resolved anytime soon

If you’re a Denver sports fan, this is about as bad as it gets.

Yes, the Broncos and Nuggets had their share of losing seasons before the Rockies and Avalanche ever existed, and in the past two decades, all of Denver’s pro teams have taken their turn making it hard for fans to stay interested.

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This year’s problems, though, present a special brand of cruelty.

The only real antidote for Denver sports fans right now would be watching the Rapids make the playoffs in Tim Howard’s final year as goaltender. Or watching the Avalanche, led by potential MVP Nathan Mackinnon and young phenom Cale Makar, compete for a Stanley Cup. And that’s not to mention the fact that the Nuggets could be poised to win the city’s first-ever NBA title.

But if most local viewers try to watch any of this unfold on television, they’ll be met by a black screen. Which means that even if the local teams triumph, things for Denver sports fans will remain, well, dark.

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