Altice calls Albrecht’s ‘bad actor’ accusation ‘unproductive public spin’

Chris Albrecht, Starz
Starz CEO Chris Albrecht has accused Altice USA of "behaving like a bunch of bad actors" in a 12-day carriage dispute. (Image: Starz)

Amid a heated 12-day programming blackout, Altice USA responded to harsh comments from Chris Albrecht, accusing the Starz CEO of “engaging in public spin.

“Despite numerous attempts by Altice USA to reach a deal, Starz refused all offers, including many offers to extend our current agreement,” said Altice USA in a statement emailed to Fierce today by company spokesperson Lisa Anselmo. 

Premium channel Starz went dark on Altice USA’s 4.9 million pay TV homes at the turn of the new year, with the two sides unable to come to a licensing renewal deal. The blackout affects 17 Starz, StarzEncore and MoviePlex premium channels. Both of Altice’s systems, Optimum and Suddenlink, are impacted. 

Earlier in the week, Starz CEO Chris Albrecht had told the New York Post that Altice was “behaving like a bunch of bad actors,” and that it was the cable company that initiated the backout. 

“It’s astonishing how much they’re lying,” Albrecht said. “They said we took our service down—but the truth is it’s still being sent to them.”

RELATED: Altice says Starz's cease-and-desist claims are bogus

The Post also interviewed Michael Burns, vice chairman for Lionsgate, which purchased Starz in 2016. “Customers woke up on January 1 and Altice told them, ‘We made this decision for you and took Starz—with thousands of movie and TV shows you love—out of the package. Oh, and by the way, you now have the Cowboy Channel.’”

The new year, which usually sees a rash of program licensing negotiations go out, has presented a surprisingly low number of vitriolic carriage and retrans disputes—making the ugly Altice-Starz kerfuffle stand out all the more. 

As usual, politicians are seizing the opportunity for a little profile, with two New York House Democrats, Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke, sending a joint letter to Albrecht and Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei, urging them to reach a “mutually agreeable” conclusion to the impasse.

Altice officials quietly say they want a renewal deal that looks more like the one structured on the Suddenlink side of their business, which allowed for more flexible, a la carte delivery of Starz channels. 

Altice continues to loudly message that anyone who wants Starz badly enough can get it over the top.