Wednesday, 06 February 2013 16:00

Denver Sports fans should be high on Altitude

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"Complaining is a pretty common pastime, especially in the social media world. You’ll encounter scant criticism of Altitude, however. The network does such a fine job that even snarky lurkers have little bad to say about it. That’s surprising considering the flogging that Root Sports Rocky Mountain, the network that carries the Rockies games seems to take."

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Altitude Sports and Entertainment was launched in September, 2004. Eight and half years later, Altitude seems to be thriving. It has relationships with major corporate sponsors, an enviable slate of programming and extraordinary broadcasting talent in its arsenal.

The cable TV network, a property of Kroenke Sports Enterprises (KSE), has one primary purpose: to broadcast the games played by the teams owned by Kroenke, the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Mammoth and Rapids, and to provide complimentary programming relating to those teams. Altitude is a mid-market regional independent sports network with the look and feel of a national outlet.

Most of Altitude’s programming is offered in dazzling high definition. The camera work is very good, as are the digital aspects of its productions, the intros and the “outros”, the in-game graphics and the edited highlight packages. Altitude’s studios appear gleaming and modern, its commentators prepared and professional. Moreover, most of the on-screen faces are local and familiar.

Complaining is a pretty common pastime, especially in the social media world. You’ll encounter scant criticism of Altitude, however. The network does such a fine job that even snarky lurkers have little bad to say about it. That’s surprising considering the flogging that Root Sports Rocky Mountain, the network that carries the Rockies games seems to take.

Aside from simply being a well managed company, Altitude’s secret is its people.

Nuggets broadcasts feature color commentator Scott Hastings, the lanky and beloved former Nugget and play-by-play from Chris Marlowe, who spent over a decade at NBC, covering Olympic events, NBA and volleyball and was the play-by-play voice of the XFL during its one and only season. Studio and sideline duties are split between Julie Browman (who grew up in Evergreen), Maya Starks (a Pomona HS grad), Blake Olson (who spent four years at Channel 2 and five years at channel 9), Todd Romero (a native Denverite who graduated from DU in 1986) and Bill Hanzlik, who played for the Nuggets for nearly a decade and went on to become the head coach of the team for one forgettable season. The Altitude Nuggets broadcast team does a fantastic job.

Avalanche games are covered with no less aptitude. Play-by-play man Mike Haynes is widely considered to be the best overall sportscaster in the state. He’s been the voice of the Avalanche for an amazing eighteen years. Haynes is far beyond good. Peter McNab, the Avalanche color man, is an Emmy winner and dyed-in-the-wool “hockey guy” who played collegiate hockey for the DU Pioneers and was later with the Sabres, Bruins, Canucks and Devils. Haynes and McNabb receive studio and update support from a combination of Julie Browman, Kyle Keefe (who’s been with KSE since 1995), Brian Engblom (who also covers hockey for Versus) and Mark Rycroft, a former Avalanche player who is treasured by fans for his frankness as well as his expertise.

Aside from terrific game broadcasts, Altitude produces an array of other shows. Perhaps the finest of these is the Altitude Sports Summit, a round-table discussion show featuring a revolving cast of personalities including Avalanche radio play-by-play guy Marc Moser (who 104.3 the Fan listeners remember fondly as “the Mos”), Dave Logan, Scott Hastings, Mile High Sports’ Doug Ottewill Kyle Keefe and Todd Romero. Julie Browman hosts the George Karl show, another regular Altitude production. There’s also Mammoth Magazine, Avalanche All-Access, One-on-One, specials like Joe Sakic – Journey to the Hall and Mile High Sports TV.

Altitude maintains a nearly full schedule. There is a small amount of “brokered” programming as well, glorified infomercials, but far less of it than one might expect. All in all, the network is a boon to Denver sports fans. Even when the teams it covers are performing poorly, Altitude is a winner.

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