Update: The NBA has asked at least one local sports bar, Blake Street Tavern, not to stream Nuggets games.
Friday night’s home opener will still air on channel 20, which local bars can show.
As the Denver Nuggets play their season opener Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers, basketball fans from throughout the city will flock to their favorite sports bar to watch the game.
But this common fall tradition may not last. Nuggets fans may soon find themselves unable to see Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray do their thing unless they spring for Pepsi Center tickets.
In September, the three major TV distributors — DirectTV, Comcast and Dish Network — all dropped Altitude TV, the channel that broadcasts games for the Colorado Avalanche, Rapids and Nuggets, due to a contract dispute. The disagreement has led to a complete television blackout for Avalanche games, which began 20 days ago, and sports bar owners say it’s taking a toll.
“People were calling left and right wanting to watch them so it’s definitely not helping business at all,” Jeremy Malone, a co-owner at Sportsbook Bar & Grill in Wash Park and Greenwood Village, told Denverite.
Nuggets fans will fare a bit better, for now. ESPN will air the team’s Wednesday opener, allowing any bar with a basic cable package to show it. For the Nuggets’ home opener on Friday, Altitude TV purchased air time on KTVD, a local station on channel 20.
It will be the first time in more than 30 years that the Nuggets have aired on a local network broadcast. If the contract dispute is not resolved after these first two games, sports bars will likely have to choose between not airing the games or streaming them illegally.
“It’s not worth it. You can get sued for millions of dollars,” Malone said, “but if it doesn’t get fixed we might have to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else and start streaming it.”
Altitude executives say they are working towards some kind of solution, but Altitude COO Matt Hutchings told media outlets Monday that the company would “not condone illegal streaming,” and said his company is working towards a deal to allow bars and restaurants to show the games legally.