50 Cent Takes Starz-Optimum Feud Personally

Rapper, producer and entrepreneur Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson took the ongoing carriage feud between Starz and Altice USA seemingly to an extreme Friday, posting a video of himself following an Optimum cable technician van in New Jersey and apparently contemplating ramming the tech’s vehicle with his own car.

Whether Jackson, who serves as a producer and co-star of Starz original series Power, was joking or not — and a lot of his followers appear to think he was joking — Optimum parent Altice USA clearly was not amused. “The safety of our employees and customers is our number one priority and it is outrageous that a commercial dispute has led to the threat of violence against our employees,” Altice USA told Multichannel News in a statement. “This behavior is reprehensible and should not be tolerated, and we will do everything in our power to protect our employees following this public threat of violence.”

The Starz premium channel has been dark to Altice USA’s Optimum and Suddenlink customers since Jan. 1 after the parties failed to reach a carriage agreement. Altice claims that Starz wanted rate increases that would make it difficult to compete with the channel’s own standalone app, which is available for $8.99 per month. Optimum charges $11.95 per month for Starz service.

The video shows Jackson, acting in a manner similar to his gangster character Kanan in Power, driving behind an Optimum service truck, making several profanity laced statements and threatening to ram his car into the back of the truck.

“I’m fina start running down on these n****s. LOL #denofthievesintheaters,” Jackson wrote in a comment on the post. Den of Thieves is a movie starring Jackson, Gerard Butler and Pablo Schreiber that opened in theaters Friday. Jackson plays Levi Enson, one of three elite criminals who set out to rob the Federal Reserve bank in Los Angeles.

Starz declined to comment. Power, according to some reports, has a strong following in the New York area -- where Optimum operates -- and stands to lose a large chunk of viewership the longer the blackout lasts. That may be the reason Jackson appears so upset in the video. This isn't the first Instagram post he has made about the carriage dispute -- he has made others urging customers to contact Optimum to get Starz back on the air.

This is just the latest  in what is becoming an increasingly contentious battle between Starz and Altice USA. Earlier Friday, Starz said it had filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, asking the agency to force Optimum to carry Starz because it did not give customers 30 days' notice that the channel was going to be blacked out. Altice USA said the charges were without merit.