Starz, Altice in Standoff as Carriage Dispute Nears Deadline

Outlander Still Season 3 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Starz

The 'Outlander' broadcaster is threatening to pull its channels if a new deal isn't reached by New Year's Eve.

Altice and Starz on Saturday turned up the heat as their carriage dispute nears a New Year's Eve deadline for a new deal.

Starz, a division of Lionsgate, threatened a blackout of its programming on Altice's Optimum cable TV service in the U.S. market if the European pay TV and telecom giant continues to demand "a totally unreasonable agreement unlike anything that has previously existed in our 20-year partnership," the premium cable channel said in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

"We urge them to join with us in working to reach an agreement that is fair, reasonable and operates in the best interests of our customers, many of whom cannot otherwise find programming that speaks directly to them," Starz added.

Altice countered that Starz is demanding "outrageous" hikes in programming costs as it works toward an agreement "that is reasonable and reflects the best interests of all our customers.” The distribution platform added that Starz has a direct-to-consumer offering at $8.99 a month, and is looking for new carriage terms that would force Altice to charge its own customers more than the cost of the over-the-top service.

"This would be a bad deal for consumers who can get the service for less directly from Starz," Altice said in a statement. Starz argued it offers Altice subscribers premium programming for underserved audiences that include African-American, Hispanic, women and LGBTQ viewers. It pointed to a "potential loss of thousands of hours of programming" for those audiences if the carriage dispute could not be resolved.

Starz recently signed new deals with major distribution platforms that include Verizon and Hulu. Altice in the last year has completed carriage talks and new deals with Disney and AMC.

Altice USA, which owns the former Cablevision Systems and a controlling stake in smaller cable firm Suddenlink, is the U.S. arm of European giant Altice.