UPDATED with Altice’s response: In what has become a regular occurrence as TV networks and cable/satellite providers squabble over carriage fees, Starz’s channels have been dark on Altice USA systems, servicing 4.9 subscribers, since January 1.
Albrecht didn’t mince words about Altice and its management, blasting them for not rebating customers who had paid their Starz monthly fee. (Altice had argued that viewers could access Starz via the standalone app.)
“This is a company that’s been beaten up,” Albrecht said of Altice during TCA. “They paid a lot of money for the systems they bought. They’ve been having a lot of difficult discussions. I’m sure their board isn’t happy with the management.”
As for Starz subscribers on Altice systems having to use the standalone streaming service, “there certainly are people who are not as savvy as being able to go and get another box to connect to their TVs so they can watch Starz,” Albrecht said, adding that fellow premium networks like HBO exist both as part of MVPD bundles and standalone apps.
“This thing is far from over,” he said of the carriage dispute. “These negotiations are always difficult — it’s becoming increasingly a case of MVPDs wanting to pay less but still be able to charge their customers more. Obviously that doesn’t work for us.”
But “in the long haul, we will come to an agreement that works for them and works for us; I expect that we will get a deal” Albrecht said.
UPDATE: Altise USA issued a statement in response to Albrecht’s comments, saying that they are “disappointed and surprised that Starz continues to engage in unproductive public spin to mislead consumers.” (You can read it in full under the post.)
One factor that could’ve expedited the successful conclusion of the negotiations — Starz’s hit drama Power, the second-biggest series on premium cable behind HBO’s Game of Thrones and No. 1 among African American audiences. It has a devoted following that would’ve led to an outcry should the show have been blacked out.
“We have 600,000 shared customers in Brooklyn, within walking distance to the set where Power is filmed,” he said. “If Power was on Sunday, we’d be in a different situation.”
Here is Altice’s statement:
We are disappointed and surprised that Starz continues to engage in unproductive public spin to mislead consumers after they spent the last few months insisting on terms that would force hundreds of thousands of customers to pay for programming that they don’t watch. Despite numerous attempts by Altice USA to reach a deal, Starz refused all offers, including many offers to extend our current arrangement. We would be delighted if Starz would allow us to offer and promote their channels to any and all of our customers who want them, which they have rejected. At the heart of this issue is our customers’ desire for greater flexibility and choice in our video bundles, and we will continue to advocate for their interests and to change the current model imposed by programmers.