Q. I got a statement from Comcast yesterday saying I will lose Starz later this year and get Epix instead. I’m interested in Epix, but I really like Starz. So will Comcast really get rid of Starz? — Teresa, Boston.
Teresa, you have been placed in the middle of a fee fight. Let me explain.
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Comcast yesterday announced that on December 4 it add the Epix premium channel to most programming packages. Then on December 10, it will remove all 17 Starz channels (including Encore) from those packages, effectively replacing the channel with Epix. (Starz is the home of such shows as Outlander, pictured above, and Power.)
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On December 12, the cable operator will add three more Epix channels, Epix Drive-In, Epix Hits and Epix 2, to those same programming plans.
The four Epix channels will be a nice addition for millions of Comcast subscribers who will be able to watch such original shows as Godfather of Harlem, Pennyworth, Get Shorty and NFL: The Grind.
But what about Starz? Will it be gone forever? This is what Comcast had to say yesterday on its web site:
“We decided to replace Starz channels in certain packages with EPIX. We have also reduced the number of Starz channels while continuing to offer the main Starz channel and Starz On Demand. This will help us manage programming costs that are passed on to our customers while continuing to make this content available to those who want to watch it.”
Comcast’s statement includes a link to a page where you can add Starz for $12 a month.
If this seems strange to you, Starz offered some clarification yesterday with its own statement:
“Starz has been working diligently to reach a fair market distribution agreement with Comcast Xfinity in order to continue providing our shared customers with access to our acclaimed line-up of premium television content,” the channel said. “However, months before our contract deadline and in spite of our best efforts to engage in meaningful discussions, Comcast has publicly stated their intention to drop our networks from all packages and bundles, ignoring industry precedent and demonstrating a total disregard for its customers, communities, suppliers and other stakeholders.”
So Comcast’s carriage agreement with Starz is coming to an end, and the cable operator is turning up the heat by announcing it will pull its channels from all bundles.
Normally, what pay TV operators say during a carriage negotiation can be easily dismissed. They make numerous threats in order to pressure the programmer to accept reduced fees. (The programmers make similar threats.)
But in this case, it would be difficult for Comcast to retreat from its decision to add the Epix channels to those programming packages. The cable op has told its subscribers they are coming.
So the question becomes: Could Comcast include both Epix and Starz in the programming packages? Or would it only accept offering Starz as a standalone channel for, say, $12 a month?
My guess is that Comcast has made its decision. In carriage talks with Starz, it will only agree to terms that include Starz as a separate channel. There are very few, if any, pay TV operators that bundle two premium channels in their regular programming packages. In fact, offering even one is rare.
And now that Comcast has said it will include Epix, there’s really no room left for Starz.
Will Starz accept being a standalone channel on Comcast? Considering that Comcast has more video subscribers than any other cable TV operator, it might not have a choice.
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It is infuriating knowing what Comcast did with the Turner Classic Movie channel which we as customers already paid for in our bundle. Now they plan the same removing all the STARZ channels but not reimbursing us if we don’t want to pay for it since we are already paying for it in our bundles. The whole thing is a rip off.
You will lose me as a customer because you are dropping Starz. I only signed up to get Starz because I wanted to see Outlander. I think you will probably lose a lot of subscribers over this. Not a smart move 👎
Comcast doesn’t care what any of us think, they told me their service agreement gives them the right to change the channels provided at any time. I asked them if that meant they could remove all of our channels and i still had to pay, their answer was yes. I’m currently looking for a replacement for a company that doesn’t care about it’s customers. I don’t think cable companies realize that in a couple of years their business model will die since each network is going to be streaming and 5G will provide the bandwidth to do away with cable.
I am very upset that Comcast is cancelling Starz. One of the reasons I went with Comcast when I was looking for a new cable was that the package that I chose included Start and Showtime as both these channels have the series that I watch, ie: Power. You are also cancelling it at the last few episodes of the series. This means that after watching the series I will not be able to see how it ends. I am not interested in Epix and do not appreciate being forced to take it. Comcast does not care about their customers. I will probably change providers or cut cable all together, which may be cheaper.
WOW Comcast has balls doing what they just did with Starz Good luck holding onto customers Not seeing this move as a smart one. I already got rid of one cable box replaced with ROKU replaced my Modem from comcast. Comcast/Xfinity who every you are WAKE-UP your going to loose .This is not a smart move to do to your customers.