As its carriage dispute with Altice USA wages on, Starz has filed two petitions with the FCC urging the commission to direct the cable operator to immediately restore 16 Starz channels for customers in the New York area.
Starz programming went dark Jan. 1 for Altice’s Optimum subscribers in the New York area, after the two failed to reach a new carriage agreement.
In its latest Jan. 17 filing, Starz requests the FCC issue emergency injunctive relief to restore carriage of Starz, StarzEncore, and Movieplex for a 30-day notice period required by the commission, which Starz claims Altice violated.
Starz, a subsidiary of Lions Gate Entertainment, also asks the operator to “correct” its “misleading and false disclosures regarding its deletions of Starz’s channels, and “respond to consumer inquiries and complaints” in compliance with FCC rules.
“To our great disappointment, and to the disappointment of Altice customers, Starz and its affiliated channels continue to remain off the air in New York,” said Chris Albrecht, president and CEO of Starz, in a statement. “This disruption has caused high-quality programming that promotes diversity in its production, talent and content, to be taken from viewers with no notice. More than that, Altice has continued a pattern of abusive consumer practices in avoiding the inquiries and complaints of its subscribers about the deletion.”
“The filing of today’s petition is the next step in our effort to ensure that Altice subscribers receive the full value of their subscription, including restoration of all Starz channels,” Albrecht added. “Starz has never stopped transmitting its service to Altice and it is time for them to do the right thing by either restoring the service or giving our customers a refund.”
Starz asserts Altice knowingly ignored the FCC rule requiring operators to give customers 30-days’ notice of major programming changes.
“Clearly, Cablevision was aware of the disclosure requirements, but it wanted to avoid the inevitable outcry from deleting the popular Starz channels and simply disregarded the commission’s notice rule,” the petition states.
Altice responded to the petition Friday with a statement, saying, “These claims are without merit and we will file our response in due course.”
Altice has said Starz demanded unreasonable rate increases that would force Altice customers to pay more than it would cost them to subscribe to Starz’s standalone OTT offering, which is available for just under $9 per month. In addition to offers to maintain packaged distribution, Altice also said it proposed extending its a la carte deal in Suddenlink to include Optimum, as well as offered to help sell the Starz OTT service to Altice’s broadband customers, but Starz refused.
“We are focused on providing the best content experience for our customers and continually evaluate which channels meet their needs and preferences relative to the cost of the programming imposed by content owners,” Altice said in its statement. “Given that Starz is available to all consumers directly through Starz’ own over-the-top streaming service, we don’t believe it makes sense to charge all of our customers for Starz programming, particularly when their viewership is declining and the majority of our customers don’t watch Starz. We have offered and remain open to a deal with Starz to offer the content to customers who want it but they refuse.”
Public comments on Starz’s Jan. 8 petition filed with the FCC seeking declaratory ruling, enforcement order, and further relief regarding the Altice dispute are due by Feb. 5.
Recently, members of Congress have voiced concern over the dispute. Last week Reps. Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries sent a letter to Starz’s Albrecht and Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei asking the two sides to “engage in good faith negotiations and come to a mutually agreeable resolution that allows the people in our districts to continue to have access to all of the content they enjoy.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations