DENVER • With disputes keeping the cable industry goliaths from broadcasting games of Colorado’s professional sports teams, a David-sized company is out to liberate Front Range sports fans.
In its sling, Evoca boasts a $25-per-month package — $30 if renting the requisite receiver — that carries most of Colorado’s professional teams’ home and away games, contests that have disappeared from various cable and satellite packages.
Evoca combines a bit of the old and new schools, meshing feeds from antenna and streaming services in its product. An internet connection and a television with an HDMI input are all that are needed to get started, as Evoca can provide the receiver and necessary antenna.
Most Broncos games will be available through the antenna — which fetches the local CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox affiliates — while Evoca’s channel lineup uses the web to stream Altitude — the television home of the Avalanche, Nuggets, Rapids and Mammoth — and AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain, which broadcasts nearly all the Rockies games.
“It’s basically taking over-the-air broadcast and over-the-top streaming and blending them together, so you’re in one channel lineup,” said Eileen Tanner of Zebra Partners, which is assisting the start-up television company with marketing . “You don’t know whether it’s coming over your antenna, or it’s coming through your internet.”
National cable sports networks like ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and CBS Sports Network, which broadcast many Colorado, Colorado State and Air Force contests, are not part of Evoca’s lineup. Neither are many other popular news and entertainment channels, but that’s by design.
“We have made the conscious decision not to add some of those big-name ones, because they are so expensive,” Dana McLeod, Evoca’s chief financial officer and head of content, told The Gazette.
A partnership with Sling TV allows Evoca customers to view some of those major channels while still paying less than they would for other traditional cable packages. Evoca also has an agreement with Colorado State that carries a variety of sporting events that don’t get picked up by the national channels. McLeod hinted that the University of Denver could be one of the next additions.
“We have another couple of schools that will be coming out (soon),” McLeod said.
For Ava Cook, the limited channel list isn’t a problem. She’s content to watch her local teams through Evoca and let other streaming services like Netflix handle the rest of her viewing needs.
“If you’re a sports fan, you should probably have it,” Cook said of Evoca.
She’s not the only local fan who feels that way. Robert Bush pairs Evoca with another platform’s live TV offerings, and the combined price of those services still beats what he was paying Comcast during the dispute.
“I’m definitely still ahead of where I was,” Bush said.
Most Colorado sports fans are in their third year of being unable to watch the Avalanche, Nuggets, Rapids and Mammoth because of an ongoing dispute between the area’s major cable providers — Comcast and DISH Network — and Altitude, the regional sports network owned by Kroenke Sports and Entertainment. Each of the companies involved is valued in the billions.
“Altitude has been a disaster the last several years, and we do not want to sign up for what’s being offered to us, because that would only make it an even bigger disaster,” Nuggets president Josh Kroenke, son of team owner Stan, said during his most recent media availability in June. “It’s stayed online because we care about our fans. We are funding that to a major loss right now, in the hope that we can figure this out and make it a sustainable model.”
Kroenke added that accepting the offer on the table at that time would’ve forced layoffs within the company. Comcast and Altitude recently ended a second round of mediation without a resolution. It’s left fans with few options to (legally) watch games. That’s the gap Evoca hopes to fill.
“I love it. It’s been great,” Cook said. “I’ll admit, we totally illegally streamed all the Nuggets games beforehand, and that’s fine, but you know if the stream drops, you have to hear the away announcers. It’s just not as fun, and then, obviously, the horrible quality depending on the feed.”
Colorado Springs was the second market the Boise-based startup expanded to in fall 2021. Service in the Denver area followed earlier this year, and expansion continued into Arizona, Michigan and Oregon.
“The reaction we saw there (Colorado Springs) in the first few months led us to speed up the launch in Denver,” McLeod said.
“Colorado is unique in how difficult it is to access that (local sports) content, but the same issues are everywhere.”
With a resolution between the major providers and Altitude nowhere in sight, Bush and Cook decided to give Evoca a chance toward the end of the NBA and NHL regular seasons this spring.
“It was the only option, and it’s working out fine,” Bush said.
DirecTV is the lone local provider still carrying Altitude, but the satellite service comes with the most expensive price tag and a contract. There are no contracts involved in getting started with Evoca.
“I had DirecTV, but (I’m) hoping to save with Evoca,” Zac Slusher said. “I just switched, but so far, watching the Rockies has been very easy with Evoca.”
Before joining Evoca a little more than a year ago, McLeod, a Colorado Springs native and Colorado College graduate, was the vice president of content and business development at DISH when they were unable to continue carrying Altitude without significant price increases. Comcast, the largest cable provider in Colorado, has faced the same issue.
“I’m very familiar with the pay-TV world, also really familiar with the decisions that they made around the regional sports networks and why it didn’t make sense, at the time, for them to continue carrying that content,” McLeod said. “But I know that there are passionate local sports fans that want that content. We have a way to offer it at a cheaper price.”
Neither Bush nor Cook knew many other Evoca subscribers in their social circles and added they don’t see much advertising of the service. Both agreed it’s a product worthy of recommendation despite its size disadvantage, which could become a marketing strategy for the startup.
“That’s definitely one of the concepts we’ve explored,” McLeod said. “Us versus the evil cable overlords.”
Notable channels included in Evoca TV
AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain
The Weather Channel
Game Show Network