Altice USA, Starz, settle dispute, channels to be reinstated
Altice USA has reached an agreement with Starz to reinstate the pay network’s various channels on its cable system, according to both companies. The return of Starz’s channels will begin Tuesday, and will continue to be added to the cable system throughout the rest of February, according to Altice.
In a statement, Altice — which serves some 4.6 million subscribers, most of them on Long Island — said the “multi-year affiliation agreement” would “offer the full suite of Starz and Starz Encore premium linear and HD channels, On-Demand, HD On-Demand and online services across the Optimum and Suddenlink cable systems.”
Altice dropped Starz on New Year’s Day after 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 at the time, “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.”
In a statement Tuesday, Jeffrey Hirsch, chief operating officer of Starz, said, “Starz is very pleased that both companies found a mutually beneficial way to expand our relationship over the next several years to offer the best content possible to millions of Altice USA subscribers.”
Neither company announced details of the new carriage agreement. In a carriage agreement, a cable operator such as Altice — the nation’s fourth largest with 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 was 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 completed a carriage deal with Time Warner’s HBO last year.
The decision to reinstate Starz affects 17 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 wrapped-up its third season late last year.
When negotiations broke down on New Year’s, Altice announced that a handful of channels would replace Starz, including Hallmark Drama, MGM HD, the Sony Movie Channel and the Cowboy Channel. On Tuesday Altice said those channels will remain.