Starz Pushes Back on Altice USA Response to FCC Petition

Starz is challenging Altice USA’s interpretation of events related to the carriage blackout that began on Jan. 1.

Lionsgate-owned pay TV group Starz filed a petition with the FCC on Jan. 8 urging the commission to order Altice USA to restore Starz on its system serving the New York area and other markets. Altice USA responded on Jan. 23, scoffing at the notion that the FCC should intervene in the private business dispute.

Starz in its latest response reiterated that Altice violated FCC rules by failing to give adequate notice to its customers that the 16 Starz-Encore channels would be dropped from its systems as of Jan. 1. Starz also pushed back on Altice claims that Starz has low viewership among subscribers of Altice’s Optimum service in the New York City area. According to Starz, the channel is the most watched of the premium cablers (HBO, Showtime, Epix) among the nearly 1 million Optimum subscribers who receive Starz.

Starz continues to hammer Altice on the question of refunds for customers who paid the monthly free for the premium channel that includes Starz. Altice maintains it is has begun offering customers rebates.

“All we’re asking is that the FCC require Altice to comply with basic cable consumer protection requirements,” Starz said. “They need to tell Altice that consumers have rights and violating them is wrong. And they should tell Altice to do what’s required by delivering Starz to its customers, giving them notice and providing a real explanation of their choices.”

There’s no word on a time frame for the FCC ruling on Starz’s petition. Starz notes that the urgency is real given its investment in programming such as the new drama series “Counterpart,” which bowed Jan. 21 and was given a more than $1 million marketing push in the New York area.

“Starz’s business is built on the back of ‘tent pole’ programming like ‘Counterpart,’ through which Starz builds long-term subscriber relationships and attracts new viewers to its channels and other shows, and New York is a key market for Starz,” the complaint states.

(Pictured: “Counterpart”)

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