Altice USA Looks to Expand Content Reach

Altice USA, the domestic cable arm of European telecom giant Altice, is considering extending its cable news channels throughout its footprint in an effort to further differentiate the service.

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Altice operates News 12 channels in seven Optimum markets in the New York metropolitan area – Long Island, Westchester County, Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, the Bronx, and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey. In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, Altice USA chairman and CEO Dexter Goei said the company is considering expanding News 12’s reach to its Suddenlink markets in the U.S.

News 12 was the brainchild of Cablevision Systems, which Altice purchased in June for $17.7 billion. Altice purchased Suddenlink in December 2015 for $9.1 billion.

At the briefing, Goei said Altice is looking to content to differentiate it from the competition, but that it would most likely focus on its news content.

News 12 Networks president Patrick Dolan said that the idea of expanding News 12 throughout Suddenlink is still being considered, but he added that Suddenlink markets in Texas and Oklahoma, where high school sports is tremendously popular, could be potentially lucrative markets.

News 12’s hyper-local focus in suburban markets includes extensive coverage of high-school sports through its News 12 Varsity offering and its daily news programs.

“It’s beginning to be discussed,” Dolan said of the expansion. “A future version may be very sports oriented.”

As over-the-top, streaming video and skinny bundle packages proliferate, cable operators have scrambled to try to find unique ways to attract and retain subscribers. In April, Charter reached a deal with AMC Networks where the programmer would develop content that would be available exclusively to Charter customers for a time. “That’s not something we’re looking at today,” Goei said.

Altice hinted that its international news channel – i24 – could also gain wider distribution. The channel, which Altice developed in 2013 and with news operations in New York, Paris, Tel Aviv and Washington, D.C., offers news from the Middle East and the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The channel is currently available throughout the Optimum and Suddenlink footprint and via an online app.

Altice executives said Tuesday that targeting the widest audience possible for i24 is the ultimate goal.

Goei also touched briefly on Altice USA’s wireless strategy, adding that it is still being evaluated.

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Asked if he would consider partnering with other cable companies or providers to offer a wireless offering similar to a recent agreement between Comcast and Charter for their wireless product, the Altice USA chief seemed to back away from that path.

Part of the Comcast-Charter agreement is jointly procuring equipment and platforms, something Goei said is not a top priority for Altice, which already has an extensive mobile network in Europe and doesn’t need to “team-up” with other companies to obtain supply and technology discounts.