As Altitude Sports & Entertainment Network moves into its second decade, new president Ben Boylan is taking stock as to what new heights the regional sports network needs to scale.
Boylan, who has been with the RSN home to the National Basketball Association’s Denver Nuggets and National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche since its inception in September 2004, last month succeeded Kim Carver at the helm. Carver had announced in November that she would be departing KSE Media Ventures, where she served as president and CEO of Altitude and president of World Fishing Network.
In his new post, Boylan, who was senior vice president of media sales, focusing on sponsorship sales for the Nuggets and Avalanche, now has oversight for television operations. That includes production, programming, creative services, marketing and distribution efforts at the Denver-based RSN, which has 3.1 million homes in 10 states. He also is responsible for Nuggets and Avalanche radio operations, with each team counting 15 affiliates.
“Kim left Altitude in good hands,” said Boylan, who has been meeting with department heads to get “a feel for where we’re at. I want to make sure about the subtle things that need to be done.”
GETTING IN THE STREAM
Changes are expected to occur on the programming and digital fronts, notably with online streaming opportunities with Nuggets games.
“Streaming is the issue of the day,” Boylan said, referring to the tip off of in-market simulcasting on pro basketball games by Fox Sports and Comcast SportsNet regionals. “Fans want to be able to watch the games on their tablets and phones.”
Altitude is in “test mode,” Boylan said. “We want to make sure we have the right solutions for our viewers and distributors.” He said he expects an official TV-everywhere launch for the club in 2015.
Altitude launched through a series of 10-year affiliate pacts, and has inked renewals with key cable distributors Comcast Cable and Charter Communications. Officials declined to discuss the status with DirecTV and Dish Network, but noted the network has remained on the air with the two satellite-TV providers.
“It helps take the pressure off,” Boylan said of the new cable contracts, without specifying deal terms. “They help make us more successful.”
Boylan began his career at KOA Radio in 1986 in promotions, followed by a stint as a talk show producer, before moving on to advertising sales. He transitioned to Prime Sports (later part of Fox Sports Networks) as an account executive in 1991. He was promoted to local sales manager and national sales manager during his 13 years with Fox. Boylan joined Altitude as local sales manager in 2004 and was promoted to general sales manager in 2005.
Back in the day, he said, sponsors were primarily concerned with their 30- second ads running and “hoped to get a billboard.”
Now, they want a closer association with the clubs — something Altitude is able to deliver because it’s “one of a handful of regionals that can sell the building, teams, and television and radio together.”
That structure, in place since the 2012-13 seasons, has led to more “cross-pollination” and better integration for clients, Boylan said. He pointed to Subaru, the halftime sponsor for Nuggets telecasts, benefiting from on-air signage and welcome-back reads from the announcers, and Toyota vignettes that include such messaging as, “Let’s drive back to the start of the second period at the Pepsi Center in the Rav4.”
With conferences inking new rights pacts or forming their own networks, Boylan said regional sports networks, including Altitude, have had “to fill in the blanks” in the absence of college football and related fare.
Altitude has added high-school football and lined up boys and girls basketball games from some of the larger institutions. “In many ways, we’re going back to the roots of building off pro teams and local programming.”
LIFT FROM LACROSSE
Boylan said Altitude is also seeing some bounce with the Colorado Mammoth, the National Lacrosse League franchise that, like the Nuggets, Avalanche, Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids and the Pepsi Center, is owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.
“It’s entertaining product [on television] and in the building,” he said, explaining that lacrosse’s popularity continues to gain in Colorado, inspired in part by the University of Denver, some of whose games also appear on the network. Denver is the only school west of the Mississippi to have reached the semifinals of the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament.
As to the network’s primary players, Boylan said ratings have held up, despite challenging seasons so far for the Avalanche — “up a hair” — and the Nuggets “remaining flat.”
“That’s a testament to our fans,” Boylan said. “Denver sports fans are die-hard. They love and are continuing to support their teams.”