Apparently, fans will have to wait a little longer for the dispute between Starz and Altice to be resolved — but don't start holding your breath quite yet. Starz has filed two petitions with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a move to legally require Altice to restore the channels to their NYC-based Optimum Systems. In the first petition, Starz argues that Altice broke FCC rules by removing the channels before the 30-day notice period. The second petition asks the commission to require Altice to be in further compliance with FCC rules by correcting "misleading and false disclosures regarding its deletions of Starz channels" and by "respond to consumer inquiries and complaints."
Here is an official statement from Starz CEO Chris Albrecht on the petitions:
"To our great disappointment, and to the disappointment of Altice customers, Starz and its affiliated channels continue to remain off the air in New York. This disruption has caused high-quality programming that promotes diversity in its production, talent and content, to be taken from viewers with no notice. More than that, Altice has continued a pattern of abusive consumer practices in avoiding the inquiries and complaints of its subscribers about the deletion.
"The filing of today's petition is the next step in our effort to ensure that Altice subscribers receive the full value of their subscription, including restoration of all Starz channels. Starz has never stopped transmitting its service to Altice and it is time for them to do the right thing by either restoring the service or giving our customers a refund."
Altice responded with the following:
"These claims are without merit and we will file our response in due course. We are focused on providing the best content experience for our customers and continually evaluate which channels meet their needs and preferences relative to the cost of the programming imposed by content owners. Given that Starz is available to all consumers directly through Starz' own over-the-top streaming service, we don't believe it makes sense to charge all of our customers for Starz programming, particularly when their viewership is declining and the majority of our customers don't watch Starz. We have offered and remain open to a deal with Starz to offer the content to customers who want it, but they refuse."
On January 1st, 2018, Starz and Encore channels were removed from Altice's 4.9 million subscribers in the New York area as well as in several Midwestern states. Altice argues that Starz is looking for a rate hike level that would force them to charge subscribers more than what Starz's standalone streaming service costs subscribers. Starz states that it has always remained open to negotiations and blamed Altice for removing the channels from their systems.
At the time, each side started the finger-pointing:
"We are focused on providing the best content experience for our customers and continually evaluate which channels meet their needs and preferences relative to the cost of the programming imposed by content owners. Given that Starz is available to all consumers directly through Starz' own over-the-top streaming service, we don't believe it makes sense to charge all of our customers for Starz programming, particularly when their viewership is declining and the majority of our customers don't watch Starz."
– Altice USA
Altice USA replaced their 17 Starz-Encore channels with a mix of movie channels that include Hallmark Drama, Sony Movies, MGM HD, HD Net Movies, Flix, and Cowboy Channel; with some customers also receiving The Movie Channel for free.
"Altice has shown an unwillingness to negotiate in good faith to the detriment of our shared customers, and they have removed Starz from their platform. We remain available to discuss a fair and reasonable agreement that will serve the interests of our loyal subscribers." – Starz
Albrecht expressed confidence that a resolution would be reached when discussing the matter at last week's Television Critics Association (TCA) winter press event in Pasadena, California; but did admit that it might take some time before that happens.