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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

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Kaine, Collins pitch Senate colleagues on censuring Trump

Sen. Tim Kaine speaks with Sen. Susan Collins. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine and Susan Collins are privately pitching their colleagues on a bipartisan resolution censuring former President Trump, three sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction in his second impeachment.