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Evoca gives Altitude TV a new (and cheaper) pathway into Denver

Altitude TV still isn't carried by Comcast and Dish Network, with no near-term resolution in sight. But the regional sports network and TV home of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche is travelling a new trail into the Denver area thanks to its distribution deal with Evoca.

Evoca, a young pay-TV service that uses a blend of ATSC 3.0/1.0 broadcast signals and over-the-top broadband to deliver its lineup, has launched in Denver, offering a lineup of more than 60 channels for $25 per month (Evoca's receiver can be rented for an extra $5 per month or purchased outright for $250). Evoca's has set a two-year price guarantee on that no-contract price.

Evoca's service currently requires the 'Scout,' an over-the-air/over-the-top receiver. Evoca recently tapped CommScope to build a next-gen receiver, called the Pilot, that is powered by Android TV and equipped with dual multimode ATSC 3.0 and ATSC 1.0 tuners. Evoca plans to deploy the Pilot in the early part of 2022. Pictured is the original Scout receiver. 
 
(Image source: Evoca)
Evoca's service currently requires the 'Scout,' an over-the-air/over-the-top receiver. Evoca recently tapped CommScope to build a next-gen receiver, called the Pilot, that is powered by Android TV and equipped with dual multimode ATSC 3.0 and ATSC 1.0 tuners. Evoca plans to deploy the Pilot in the early part of 2022. Pictured is the original Scout receiver.
(Image source: Evoca)

Evoca's launch across Denver and the Colorado front range builds on earlier debuts in Boise, Idaho; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Phoenix, Arizona. Todd Achilles, Evoca's president and CEO, has said that the service aspires to go national. However, the initial focus is on the western half of the US, with Montana, Utah, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma identified as potential expansion targets.

Evoca currently doesn't support a DVR, but announced Friday that subs in Denver and Colorado Springs will have access next month to Evoca Replay. That feature will provide access to full recordings of games from the previous three days, the company said.

Evoca's Denver launch could spell good news for area sports fans in search of an affordable way to gain access to Altitude, which is carried by DirecTV's satellite and pay-TV streaming services, but at a much higher price. DirecTV Stream's "Choice" package, which includes regional sports networks and a lineup of more than 90 channels, starts at $84.99 per month.

Carriage impasse drags on

Altitude, which also provides coverage of the Colorado Rapids (Major League Soccer) and Colorado Mammoth (National Lacrosse League), has been blacked out on Comcast and Dish Network ever since its carriage agreements with them expired in the fall of 2019.

Altitude filed an antitrust suit against Comcast in late 2019, alleging that the cable operator is seeking a dramatic cut in rates paid to Altitude and to move the sports net to a less widely distributed sports tier. Comcast, the dominant pay-TV provider in the region, has argued that Altitude is converting a "garden variety commercial disagreement into an antitrust suit" that seeks to force Comcast to carry the network in perpetuity on the RSN's preferred terms.

Altitude has asserted that building and supporting a direct-to-consumer streaming version of the regional sports network would be a big money loser or force Altitude to charge exorbitant fees.

There's a hint of light. As reported by The Denver Post last month, Colorado lawmakers have drafted a bill that would require Colorado regional sports networks and pay-TV distributors to submit to nonbinding arbitration and prevent prolonged blackouts. If passed, the bill would authorize the attorney general to require a cable provider and an RSN to enter mediation when negotiations for a contract renewal continues for at least six weeks after the prior contract has expired.

Legal teams from both sides are scheduled to meet on February 23 for a settlement conference, according to the Post.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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