The window wasn’t just there. It was gaping. The Broncos spent most of the last four years as one of the NFL’s great double face palms, a football giant dying on its feet from self-inflicted wounds. The Rockies were — and based on the last 20 days, still are — a clown show masquerading as a Major League Baseball team.
But the Avalanche and Nuggets? Since 2018, dang it, they were different.
They had clever front offices. They had savvy coaches who won. They had superstars. They had hope. They were young. They were exciting. They were entertaining as heck to watch, most nights.
Only there was one teensy problem. Much of the Front Range, certainly the ones with cable packages who cared, couldn’t watch them. Not from the comfort of their homes, at any rate.
After contracts with Comcast and Dish Network went away in late 2019, the Avs and Nuggs, the best sports teams in a sports-crazy market, went away, too.
You know, Stan Kroenke, grand poobah of KSE — Kroenke Sports & Entertainment — and his son Josh, the poobah-in-waiting who met with reporters Friday? They coulda owned this town. Well, owned more of it, anyway.
And not just in terms of real estate, even though that’s how poobahs are judged these days. We’re talking hearts and minds. Hearts, minds and eyeballs.
There was a window here, Josh. A wide-open layup, buddy. An empty net.
And you blew it.
“From my perspective, when the Avalanche had their championship runs in the late ‘90s, and early ‘00s, there (are) a massive amount of fans that are still hanging on to the nostalgia of what that meant,” Kroenke said Friday at Ball Arena, a day after his Avs stomped Edmonton, 4-0, to take a 2-0 series lead into Game 3 of the NHL’s Western Conference Finals.
“You develop (as a fan), a real bond with (an) organization during those years where you’re having sustained success. And I do worry that we’re missing out on that, unfortunately.”
They’re not just missing out on the grown-ups. Because of prolonged, messy litigation with Comcast, they’re missing out on a generation of kids who should be running around in Nikola Jokic jerseys or sleeping in Cale Makar jammies.
Denver is home to the best basketball player in the world in Jokic, the NBA’s back-to-back MVP. It’s home to the best hockey team in the world, thanks to general manager Joe Sakic. Yet for nearly three years now, in a town renowned for its sunshine, they’ve dominated under a veil of relative darkness.
Surely, it was pointed out to the younger Kroenke, this blasted TV blackout has to be as counter-intuitive to business sense as it is to logic?
“(Whenever) I’m checking out at the grocery store, somebody says something,” noted Kroenke, KSE’s vice chair and the governor of the Nuggets and Avs. “So it’s not like it goes unnoticed.
“And I get it. I mean, this Comcast thing is very, very, very frustrating, (for), as I say, no one moreso than myself, because it involves personal (interest) and it involves business. I mean, we wish there was a way to do this.”
There is. Regional sports networks, who’ve been getting their financial backsides kicked for a half-decade by cord-cutting, are getting up off the mat again this summer by streaming directly to consumers.
The Bally Sports family of networks, the collective largely made up of former FOX Sports regionals, are expected to offer over-the-top, a la carte streaming services — reportedly $19.99 per month or $189.99 per year — by the end of the month. New England Sports Network, or NESN, home to Boston’s Red Sox and Bruins, debuted their monthly over-the-top streaming service earlier this week, at a rate of $29.99 per month or a yearly package of $329.99 that includes eight tickets to a game at Fenway Park.
If KSE wanted to provide Nuggets and Avalanche games at a rate somewhere in the median of those two examples — say, $24.99 a month — you don’t think at least 1,000 Front Range fans would hop on that train the first week it was made available?
“They are (NESN) fully distributed by Comcast,” Kroenke countered. “And so that, technically, (is what) allows them to stream. It’s not the case with our situation … And we’ve engaged with several of the leaders in the industry, but we’re not quite there yet.”
Get there. Now.
Because the Avs’ window, glorious as it is, won’t last forever. Jokic has already hinted that he’s sure as heck not playing forever. The Broncos have a new quarterback, a new coach, a new zip and are slated to introduce a new owner soon.
The Rockies will … um …
Yeah, they’ll still be the Rockies. Ya got us there.
“We are very focused on all of our teams and making sure that the fanbases are very happy,” the younger Kroenke said.
“(The Comcast) situation is very frustrating, like I said. But we would love to work with them on finding a solution. But without their distribution, it doesn’t make any economic sense.”
Neither does this broadcast impasse. Not anymore. Call off the legal eagles. Follow the lead of your hockey team’s favorite hashtag, Josh. Find a way.