Altice USA dropped pay premium service Starz from its Optimum cable systems over the weekend.
The decision follows what the cable company called “numerous attempts” to secure a deal with the premium service, a division of Lionsgate. Bethpage-based Altice — which holds a 25 percent stake in Newsday Media Group — said in a statement “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 said Starz’ viewers can subscribe to the streaming service, which costs $8.99 per month.
“Despite all of Altice’s assertions to the contrary, the facts in this dispute are simple. Altice wanted a drastic reduction in price that was totally inconsistent with the market and flew in the face of the record popularity of our programming,” Starz said in a statement.
Starz encouraged viewers to petition Altice to restore the service on Optimum.
In a carriage agreement, a cable operator such as Altice — the nation’s 4th largest with 4.6 million subscribers in its Optimum and Suddenlink systems — pays a program provider a certain fixed price for each of its subscribers. When those deals periodically conclude, new agreements are struck — sometimes for price increases.
The Altice/Starz standoff is the first publicized instance of a major cable operator pushing for a price drop, based partly on the argument that the streaming internet service has diminished the overall value of the cable service.
Both Showtime and HBO have stand-alone streaming services too, while Disney will launch one in 2019. Altice USA recently completed a carriage deal with Time Warner’s HBO.
Neither Altice nor Starz said what the price per subscriber offer was; such figures are tightly held in the industry.
The decision affects 17 Starz channels, including Starz Comedy, Starz Kids & Family, Starz Edge, and the suite of StarzEncore movie channels. The core Starz channel is home to popular series, such as “Outlander,” which recently wrapped its third season.
Altice announced that a handful of channels will replace Starz, including Hallmark Drama, MGM HD, the Sony Movie Channel and the Cowboy Channel.