Altice USA Fires Back at Starz FCC Petition

Altice USA has told the FCC to disregard Starz's petition for injunctive relief. The operator says the petition was procedurally defective, has no basis in law or fact or policy, and was simply an effort to manipulate the regulatory process for its business ends.

Those ends would be to get its programming back on the MSO's Optimum and Suddenlink cable systems. Starz asked the FCC earlier this month to intervene to get its networks back on Altice USA's Optimum systems in New York. The company had first filed a petition for declaratory ruling with the FCC, following that up last week with the emergency petition for injunctive relief.

Altice USA said it was an untimely petition because it was an emergency petition filed three weeks after the channels came off Jan. 1. Had it been an emergency, Altice argued, Starz would have filed the emergency petition before that.

The MSO also said Starz is engaging in a campaign to mislead customers and "disrupt" Altice USA call centers.

The cable operator also disputes Starz's assertion that it did not give its customers adequate notice of the blackout. "The FCC requires that cable operators provide customers notice of programming changes at least thirty days in advance of the change when the change is within the control of the cable operator," Altice said. "In this case, Altice did not know that an agreement for carriage would not be reached, despite its numerous offers, until December 31, 2017."

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Altice USA said its negotiations with Starz broke down not from any violation of FCC rules but because Starz wanted more than the MSO was willing to pay and pass along to its customers.

Starz wants Altice USA to "restore carriage of Starz, StarzEncore and Movieplex for the FCC-required 30-day notice period; correct Altice’s misleading and false disclosures regarding its deletions of Starz’s channels; and respond to consumer inquiries and complaints in compliance with FCC rules."

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Altice said Starz has not come close to meeting the threshold for an emergency stay, which is a showing of irreparable harm absent a stay (Altice said several million subs losing access to Starz is not such harm), the likelihood of success on the case's merits, that Altice would not be harmed by the stay, or that the public interest favors the requested stay.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.