Jan 19, 2018

Starz asks FCC to intervene in messy Altice feud

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

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 932,605 — Total deaths: 46,809 — Total recoveries: 193,177Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 213,372 — Total deaths: 4,757 — Total recoveries: 8,474Map.
  3. Business updates: Very small businesses are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus job crisis.
  4. World update: Spain’s confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far. More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.
  5. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders — Michigan has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,200 and 78 new deaths in 24 hours.
  6. Stock market updates: Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: Spain's health care system overloaded

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Two planes with protective equipment arrived to restock Spain’s overloaded public health system on Wednesday as confirmed cases surpassed 100,000 and the nation saw its biggest death toll so far, Reuters reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 900,000 and the global death toll surpassed 45,000 early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

FBI sees record number of gun background checks amid coronavirus

Guns on display at a store in Manassas, Va. Photo: Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty

The FBI processed a record 3.7 million gun background checks in March — more than any month previously reported, according to the agency's latest data.

Driving the news: The spike's timing suggests it may be driven at least in part by the coronavirus.