TCA 2018: Starz's Chris Albrecht: Altice ‘Disingenuous’ in Carriage Dispute

Still holds out hope for deal to be completed soon

Pasadena, Calif. -- Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht took MVPD Altice USA to task for pulling the network off of its systems on Jan. 1 during the pay TV service's Television Critics Association winter press tour presentation Friday.

Albrecht said that the network is still sending its signal to Altice -- which offers service in the New York metropolitan area under the Optimum brand and in the Midwest as Suddenlink -- but the distributor refuses to send it into its subscribers homes and has yet to provide refunds to subscribers who are paying for a tiered package that includes Starz.

Altice USA said it added replacement channels for customers who previously received Starz or StarzEncore as part of a video package, including Hallmark Drama, Sony Movies and MGM HD.

He also criticized Altice’s argument that subcribers who want Starz should purchase the service’s OTT product.

“To say to a customer who is still paying for Starz that they now have to get an over-the-top, direct to consumer app … is disingenuous,” he said. “HBO and Showtime have direct to consumer apps as do a lot of other channels. Our big point with them is that if you’re going to charge the customers for Starz you have to pay us, and so far they haven’t agreed to do that.” 

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Nevertheless, Albrecht said that he expects the two sides will reach an agreement, particularly as some of its most popular shows such as Power return with new seasons. 

“Both sides are financially incented to make things work," he said. “We have 600,000 shared customers in Brooklyn who are basically within walking distance of the set of Power. A lot of this has to do with timing, and I can assure you if Power was on the air this Sunday this would be a different situation.”

An Altice spokerson said in a 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."