Starz has been dark on Altice USA systems since Jan. 1. Last week, Starz asked the FCC to order Starz-Encore channels back on Altice USA systems because the operator violated FCC rules regarding giving subscribers notice of a major programming change. Altice on Tuesday argued in its response to the FCC that Starz’ complaint “has no basis in fact, law or policy.”
Altice argued that it did not violate the FCC rule requiring 30 days notice of a major programming change like the loss of a channels group because Altice had no certainty until the wee hours of Dec. 31 that the 17 Starz-Encore channels would go dark. Negotiations were ongoing up through New Year’s Eve. Although Starz has maintained that it never ordered Altice to drop the channels, the expiration of the previous contract meant that Altice had no legal right to carry the Starz-Encore group after Dec. 31.
Altice in its response accuses Starz of seeking to have the FCC intervene in what amounts to a private business dispute. Altice USA serves about 3.4 million video customers, most of them in the Long Island-Connecticut region under the Optimum brand that was once owned by Cablevision
“This negotiation failed not because of any violation of the Commission’s rules, but because Starz sought a price that makes no economic sense for Altice and its customers,” Altice said. “There is no Commission rule or precedent that permits this marketplace result to be overturned or upset.”
As the blackout stretches on, Starz has marshaled support from boldface names including Tyler Perry to urge subscribers to complain to Altice over the loss of original programs including dramas “Power,” “Outlander,” and “American Gods.” In a video message posted on Perry’s Facebook page, the multi-hyphenate star cites the toll-free complaint number and KeepStarz.com website.
“Blow them up, leave your messages, leave your tweets,” Perry says. “All y’all in New York, you know what to do. You’ve been at the Beacon (theater) with me. You know what to do.”
Meanwhile, “Power” exec producer and co-star Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson posted a video on Instagram this past weekend that featured him following an Optimum service van in a car while cursing the cable operator for taking his show off the air. He half-seriously threatens to run into the van. “They better put my m———— show back on the air,” he grumbles in the video. Season 5 of the crime drama is expected to premiere on Starz this summer.
The social media post rattled Altice executives because the license plate of the Optimum van is clearly visible in the video, leading to concern that the driver could be vulnerable to an enraged fan.
“The safety of our employees and customers is our number one priority and it is outrageous that a commercial dispute has led to the threat of violence against our employees,” Altice said in a statement. “This behavior is reprehensible and should not be tolerated, and we will do everything in our power to protect our employees following this public threat of violence.”