Altice USA is directing Optimum customers in Connecticut impacted by a blackout of Meredith-owned CBS affiliate WFSB-TV 3 to purchase CBS All Access, making good on the pay-TV industry’s threat to use the CBS SVOD service against the broadcast industry in retrans battles.
Optimum has a distribution deal with CBS for the All Access platform. This was established in August 2015 by Cablevision, before the MSO’s $17.7 billion sale to Altice USA.
Altice is now directing customers affected by the blackout of the Hartford CBS affiliate to its website set up for All Access sales. Altice is selling the service for $5.99 a month, offering a one-week free trial that will deliver next week's AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Altice’s decision to direct customers to the SVOD platform comes after Mediacom rep Thomas Larsen made a rather prophetic comment to The Wall Street Journal. Speaking to the pub in December, Larsen suggested that pay-TV operators could “give subscribers a $70 gift card and a free year of CBS All Access” when retrans blackouts of CBS stations occur.
On Friday, Meredith blacked out WFSB-TV, following the usual impasse over broadcast retransmission licensing fees.
Not even the pleas of two U.S. Senators could restore WFSB-TV 3 to the screens of Altice customers in Litchfield and New Haven, Connecticut, in time for the Patriots’ playoff win over the Houston Texans Saturday.
Connecticut’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, sent a letter addressed to both Meredith Corp. CEO Stephen Lacy and Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei.
“While we respect the private negotiations being conducted by Optimum and WFSB and make no representations as to the merits of either side’s position, we believe that the current impasse does a disservice to Connecticut families and we urge you to negotiate in good faith to bring an end to this blackout,” the Senators wrote.
Altice, meanwhile, said in its own statement, “We have been negotiating in good faith for weeks and made multiple offers to Meredith even though their initial request was for more than 800% over what we currently pay.”