Altice: Starz complaint ‘premised on a fundamentally faulty premise’

Altice USA flag
(Altice USA)

Altice USA has filed an opposition response to a Starz FCC complaint, contending that the premium network operator is “inappropriately asking the Commission to interfere in a marketplace business negotiation.”

Sixteen Starz networks have been blacked out on Altice’s New York region-based Optimum cable system since the turn of the year. And last week, Starz filed an emergency request for injunctive relief with the FCC, seeking to get its channels restored. 

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“The petition is untimely and has no basis in fact, law, or policy,” Altice’s opposition brief said. “It is simply a transparent attempt by Starz to manipulate a regulatory process reserved for emergency situations to secure the carriage it failed to obtain based on the merits of its programming.” 

Altice said the negotiation with Starz bogged down “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,” the cable operator said. 

Altice also noted that Starz waited three weeks after its channels went dark before filing its request. “This fact alone shows that there is no ‘emergency,’” the operator said. Starz “would have acted promptly if it in fact had suffered irreparable harm, but it did not."

Further, using awkward English, Altice rejected the assertion that it didn’t negotiate in good faith. “Starz’s petition is premised on the fundamentally faulty premise that Altice knew on or before December 1 that its systems would drop Starz at the end of the month,” the MSO said in its opposition brief. Altice said it made “several reasonable carriage offers,” all of which were rejected by Starz. 

Meanwhile, responding to Starz’s claim that Altice didn’t abide by FCC rules and notify customers 30 days before stripping Starz channels from its program guide, the operator said that, “In this case, Altice did not know that an agreement for carriage would not be reached, despite its numerous offers, until December 31, 2017. At that point, Altice made extensive notification to its customers that Starz is no longer available, including through advertising, its website, and via its customer service centers to ensure that customers understand their options (including the option to drop or downgrade service at no cost, to access alternative content, or even how to get Starz Online for a free trial.”