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Starz Warns Comcast Subs Channels Could Go Dark

Lionsgate’s Starz has begun warning subscribers that its 17 channels could be dropped and replaced by Comcast as soon as Dec. 10.

The simmering dispute has led to reports that Lionsgate is considering spinning off Starz, which it bought for $4.4 billion in 2016.

Lionsgate shares were down nearly 3% in midday trading.

At the same time, Epix reached an agreement with Comcast to be included in Xfinity TV premium packages, apparently replacing Starz channels.

“Starz has been working diligently to reach a fair market distribution agreement with Comcast Xfinity in order to continue providing our shared customers with access to our acclaimed line-up of premium television content,” Starz said in a statement. "However, months before our contract deadline and in spite of our best efforts to engage in meaningful discussions, Comcast has publicly stated their intention to drop our networks from all packages and bundles, ignoring industry precedent and demonstrating a total disregard for its customers, communities, suppliers and other stakeholders.”

If the channels are dropped, viewers will lose access to series including Power, Outlander, Vida and American Gods, as well as a VOD catalog of 7,500 TV episodes and movies, Starz said. 

“We continue to try to reach an agreement with Comcast that is fair, reasonable and ensures our shared customers’ continued access to a lineup of premium television content that speaks to them. In the meantime, however, we urge our customers to make it known to Comcast that there is no replacement for STARZ and demand that they continue to provide access to all of your favorite Starz shows or demand a refund.”

Comcast also said it is still talking with the premium network.

“We are continuing to negotiate to reach a deal with Starz that makes sense for us and our customers before our current deal expires, but we have been unable to do so at this time,” the cable operator said.

“Over the last decade, the video marketplace has evolved dramatically, with more and more streaming and direct-to-consumer offerings marketing themselves as an alternative to traditional cable. We have seen the streaming marketplace grow from essentially two services to dozens of significant OTT platforms, with more launching all the time. Starz has chosen to change its business model in response to these trends by making its content available a-la-carte on Amazon Prime and Roku and selling its service direct to the consumer through the Starz app. All we are asking for is the same treatment for our customers.”

Epix said that its new expanded relationship with Comcast will bring its thousands of movies and series to more Xfinity TV customers, beginning Dec. 10--the same date Starz might be dropped by Comcast.

On Dec. 12 Epix is launching ScreenPix, a set of channels with classic, uncut and commercial free movies. 

“Comcast is one of our most valued partners,” said Monty Sarhan, executive VP and general manager, Epix. “We look forward to building upon our relationship by making Epix available to millions of new customers and finding new ways to create value for Comcast.”

“Epix has been a great partner, and we are very pleased to deliver its critically acclaimed originals and vast content library to more Xfinity TV customers,” added Dana Strong, president of consumer services for Comcast Cable.