CTAM Summit 2009: Scaling Local Heights

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Altitude
Entertainment and Sports Network has served the
Denver sports marketplace for the past five
years, offering live coverage of
Denver
Nuggets basketball and
Denver
Avalanche hockey games. Altitude president Jim Martin talked to Multichannel News programming editor R.
Thomas Umstead about the operations of the team-owned network, including the
launch of a high-definition network and its commitment to local public-affairs
programming.

MCN: Do you feel that after five years, you've
been able to firmly establish yourself as a force in
Denver sports?

Altitude execs

Jim Martin: I
would answer that by saying we see ourselves as more of a mature network at
this point - we're fully distributed and pretty secure in our market. It's been
our conclusion that the team-owned regional sports network is the right model:
It allows us to do things that you can't do if you're a third-party network,
whether it's providing additional coverage and marketing for the team or being
able to control the broadcast with the right message. For us it's been the
right way to go.

MCN: Give me some examples as to what you've
been able to do, specifically, with regards to marketing and programming as a
standalone regional sports network.

JM: There is a
lot of marketing and on-air coverage of local sports that you can give to
viewers that wouldn't happen otherwise because, not only are you a standalone
network, but you're also the marketing arm for the teams themselves. You can
provide better coverage, better access to the teams and the players, and more
information than they would get without us.

We don't do news - we're not journalists but we're
entertainers - but we see ourselves as being able to present our product in a
better way and a better light than you can with an unrelated network.

The other part of it is that it allows us to create a
network which is a community asset. We do a lot of public-service content - for
instance we produced last year a show on homelessness supporting [Denver Mayor
John Hickenlooper's] initiative on homelessness. 

We do military support as well. I just reAcently returned
from my fourth trip to Iraq,
doing embeds and profiles with units and soldiers from the area.

Having your own network allows you to pursue those other
goals and initiatives that you couldn't do if you didn't control your own
destiny.

We also control what's advertised on the air. We don't do
male-enhancement commercials and we don't do graphic movie trailers - its all
family-friendly content.

MCN: But you do take beer ads, correct?

JM: We do, but we
have the ability to pick and choose what we run on our air. It's all about
presentation of product and positioning yourselves in the market and how you
want to be perceived, and being family-friendly is important for us.

MCN: How would you define the Denver sports marketplace? Are the fans fickle or
hard-core? 

JM: Well, Denver
is the best sports market around - you probably hear that from other cities,
too. But the fans in Denver are great
- clearly they want you to put a good product on the court or ice, and
certainly, your viewership tends to wane if you don't.

But they're also patient when they know you're working hard
toward the right goal. There's no better fan than those in Denver,
and it shows in our attendance and viewership, as well as in the support that
we get for our teams as well as for the Rockies and the
Broncos. 

MCN: When the network was first launched,
there was talk about potentially airing entertainment content, like music
concerts from the
PepsiCenter, on the network along with the live sports
product. Has that happened?

JM: We've done
some of it, but not to a great extent. We've done more community content and
public-service support.

MCN: Is the network planning any new
technological developments for the upcoming basketball and hockey seasons?

JM: We're
delivering a full-time HD channel for operators who have to capacity to take
it, which is a big step for us. We also just opened up a new broadcast facility
so that gives us better control and ability to do productions that we didn't
have a chance to do before.

MCN: With regards to broadband, are you
considering streaming live games over the Web?

JM:
We're looking at it very closely - the NBA's
policy is allowing regionals to stream games, but we haven't found the right
economic model to the costs and fees from the NBA. But we're looking at it
closely, as well as other opportunities. The NHL is
allowing for virtual advertising and we intend to avail ourselves of that
opportunity.

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