Photo by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Starz, a cable and satellite entertainment company, on Friday petitioned the Federal Communications Commission step in to resolve its carriage fight with Altice, a global telecom company that distributes the channel to American cable subscribers.

Why it matters: It's doubtful the FCC will do much to help Starz in this situation, as the agency often refrains from intervening in private negotiations.

The messy backstory: These types of fights happen often between cable/satellite companies and TV networks, but this one has gotten particularly messy since Altice first pulled Starz' signal earlier this month.

  • January 1: Altice pulled Starz channels from its cable package, arguing viewers should instead view Starz through streaming because it was charging too much to distribute on traditional TV. The blackout includes 17 Starz, StarzEncore and MoviePlex premium channels.
  • January 5: Starz sent a cease-and-desist letter that accused Altice of misleading its customers about Starz' participation in negotiation agreements.
  • January 8: Altice fired back saying, "Starz's statements are completely false and without merit."

How it works: The FCC leans on the companies themselves to resolve these types of disputes when they arise so viewers are not left in the dark, but it does not have legal authority to intervene unless a formal complaint is filed alleging bad faith negotiations.

  • Congress asked the FCC to look into whether retransmission consent negotiations are being handled properly, but no decisions have been made on next steps.

Starz is now asking that the FCC to force Altice and its cable subdivisions, Optimum and Cablevision, to restore carriage of its channels, "correct" Altice’s disclosure language to consumers and respond to complaints in compliance with FCC rules.

Bottom line: The dispute is part of a growing trend, of putting consumers in the middle of fights between TV networks fighting with cable/satellite companies.

  • Pay TV providers are continuing to boycott the fees being demanded of them, causing TV blackouts all over the country.
  • With more consumers cutting the cord, the atmosphere has gotten tense. By 2022, SNL Kagan predicts that retransmission fees being charged by TV networks will increase by roughly 50%, reaching $11.6 billion.

The number of TV blackouts continues to skyrocket, due to these fights. According to the American Television Alliance, 2017 was the worst year for TV blackouts on record.

  • 2017: 213 blackouts
  • 2016: 104 blackouts
  • 2015: 193 blackouts
  • 2014: 94 blackouts
  • 2013: 119 blackouts
  • 2012: 90 blackouts
  • 2011: 42 blackouts
  • 2010: 8 blackouts

Other recent fights that have gotten messy:

  • Local cable network Lilly Broadcasting removed its signals from DISH customers in the disaster zones in Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.
  • Verizon pulled Univision’s signal from its FiOS and mobile platforms, leaving mostly East Coast consumers without access to programming during the deadly weather disasters in Puerto Rico and Mexico last year.
  • CBS cut off Dish signal for customers over Thanksgiving weekend, which blocked NFL games from customers in 18 Dish markets.

Go deeper

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Where bringing students back to school is most risky

Data: Coders Against COVID; Note: Rhode Island and Puerto Rico did not meet minimum testing thresholds for analysis. Values may not add to 100% due to rounding; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Schools in Southern and Midwestern states are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, according to an analysis by Coders Against COVID that uses risk indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Thankfully, schools have not yet become coronavirus hotspots, the Washington Post reported this week, and rates of infection are lower than in the surrounding communities. But that doesn't mean schools are in the clear, especially heading into winter.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!