Starz, Altice Battle Over New Carriage Agreement as New Year’s Eve Deadline Looms

Starz and Altice USA are going down to the wire on a new carriage agreement that could result in Starz going dark on the cable operator as of Jan. 1.

Starz took ads out in the New York Times and New York Post on Saturday warning Altice subscribers that they could soon lose the pay TV network that is home to “Outlander,” “Power” and other premium dramas. The deal covers all of Altice systems, including its stronghold on Long Island and in Midwestern markets. Altice is the nation’s fourth largest cable operator, with about 4.9 million subscribers across 21 states.

Altice cited declining viewership for Starz on its systems and the fact that Starz has launched a standalone streaming option as reasons for the contract tussle. Starz maintains it has had no trouble reaching new deals with other MVPDs in recent months, including Verizon and Hulu, including the new wave of digital distributors.

“Since our last contract renewal, Starz began offering a direct to consumer streaming service, which drastically changes the value proposition their network provides us and our customers,” Altice said.

“Regardless, Starz is asking for outrageous increases in programming costs and, given the limited viewership of Starz amongst our customer base and the different ways consumers can directly access Starz content, we are working to reach an agreement that is reasonable and reflects the best interests of all our customers.”

Altice maintains that Starz is asking for fee hikes that would require the cable operator to change its customers more for Starz than the price of the standalone service.

Starz asserts that Altice has not been willing to compromise at the negotiating table. Altice warned programmers that it would drive hard bargains on deals when it acquired the former Cablevision and Suddenlink cable systems in 2015 and 2016.

“Starz has been working in good faith to reach a fair and reasonable distribution agreement with the team at Altice in order to continue providing our subscribers with all 17 Starz, Starz Encore and MoviePlex premium channels,” Starz said.

“We’re the second-largest premium pay network and the only premium television content provider focused on creating programming for underserved African American, Latino, female and LGBTQ viewers, with original series like ‘Power,’ ‘Outlander,’ ‘American Gods,’ ‘Ash Vs Evil Dead,’ and hundreds of blockbuster movies. But rather than negotiating in a meaningful way, Altice is demanding a totally unreasonable agreement unlike anything that has previously existed in our longstanding partnership. We urge them to join with us in working to reach an agreement that is fair, reasonable and operates in the best interests of our customers, many of whom cannot otherwise find programming that speaks directly to them.”

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