The Colorado High School Activities Association still has its media partnership with iHeartRadio but will see a new radio affiliate take over responsibilities for this season.
Meanwhile, CHSAA has told BoCoPreps that no television networks in the Denver/Front Range market, nor the regional sports stations in the state, have approached them to broadcast some of the state championship games on television in Colorado for the season, most notably in football and basketball.
When CHSAA announced its media partnership with iHeartRadio, it was set with Orange & Blue 760 AM, a Denver-based sports talk radio station founded in 2017. The station would broadcast the state championship games in Classes 4A and 5A for football and basketball. Last spring, the radio station ceased to exist.
While the station’s sudden dropping surprised those listening on the airwaves, CHSAA says it knew about the change that was coming with Orange & Blue 760’s demise.
“I had ample warning on it. That was not a surprise,” CHSAA Assistant Commissioner Bert Borgmann said. “When you are an association of schools like ours or a university program or something like that, you know radio station formats can change rapidly. In the current state that media is, it can be a challenge as well. You know when you partner with them there could be some adjustments to make. We are aware those things will happen and we try to prepare and respond to keep things normal as possible.”
As for the current partnership, Borgmann says a pair of radio stations affiliated with iHeartRadio will step in to continuing broadcasting state championship football and basketball games in Classes 4A and 5A this season.
“That particular partnership for the championship games will switch over to 630 (KHOW AM) or 850 KOA for football and basketball championships,” Borgmann said. “I think the easiest way to phrase that is simply that even with the demise of 760, iHeartRadio will still be broadcasting the championships games on an (alternate) station.”
The games will still be broadcast on radio, but the same cannot be said for television at this time.
Championship games can be streamed online through the NFHS Network during the season, and rights to those playoff events are owned by the network. If other stations want to broadcast the games on television, they can buy the rights to do so.
“Our playoff television and linear rights are owned by NFHS Network,” Borgmann said. “When someone is interested in doing linear broadcasts, we and the network sit down and go through the likelihood of sponsorship or what right fees we get for that. We look at what relationships there is with what we want through our messaging, as well as with the NFHS Network. Currently, we do not have anyone that has moved forward with any proposals.”
Altitude Sports was the television station that most recently did this, but they stopped broadcasting the state football and basketball games the past few seasons.
CHSAA says it wants to have television stations come in to broadcast these championship games, but far too many times they are seen as less of a value compared to professional and collegiate sports that draw their attention.
“We most certainly would want that conversation,” Borgmann said. “Too often, some media outlets look at high school events as something that does not have value in terms of the need to pay rights fees for. When you are talking through this and negotiating, we have to negotiate for the best interest in the schools, not just the championship. Does giving the rights away for free impact or benefit outweigh the financial support and potential loss at box office of those events? And when you are partnered with someone promoting the event, how does that impact your partner.”
Requests for comment to the local television stations in Denver on if they would be interested in broadcasting upcoming high school championship events were not immediately returned. Similar requests for comment were not returned from Altitude Sports or AT&T Sportsnet, the two main regional sports television stations that serve Colorado.
While the television stations may not be interested, people are still watching through the NFHS Network, CHSAA claims.
“All of our state championship events are available on NFHS Network through a streaming process,” Borgmann said. “We rank in middle (in the country) with the numbers of schools and events, but Colorado generally ranks in top 10 in number of viewers on stream events (through the network).”
Altitude Sports blackout leaves many without high school games
One way high school sports is getting live television broadcasts in Colorado is Altitude Sports broadcasting football games during the fall season. The station is scheduled to broadcast eight football games on Friday nights with games featuring teams from the Denver Metro area. The live broadcasts are set to begin Sept. 13 with a game featuring Valor Christian and Pomona.
For people that have one of the three major cable providers in the state, however, there is a possibility they will be unable to watch those games on TV. Altitude Sports is currently in a carriage dispute with Dish Network, DirecTV and Comcast with regards to continuing carrying the station. Dish Network already blacked out Altitude Sports when its deal expired on Wednesday and the other two stations will have the station removed this weekend if a deal is not reached.
People will have other cable providers that carry Altitude Sports will be able to watch the high school games, Borgmann said, and added that while the carriage dispute is unfortunate, it’s a part of the business in media.
“These things happen in these particular industries,” Borgmann said. “Altitude will continue to broadcast these games. Some of those games may not be seen by their current carriers at this point, but there are other carriers that this does not impact and they will be seen on that. We will adjust to that, but Altitude is doing their best to live up to their request to broadcast. They did ask to change a game from next week to a week later in the season, partly as a result of these negotiations.”