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Cablevision, Viacom Fight Over iPad App

Jeff Baumgartner
6/23/2011

Just as one iPad battle between a major MSO and Viacom settles down, another one is just starting to heat up.

Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA), the company behind networks such as MTV and Nickelodeon, is trying to stop Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) from distributing its linear TV feeds to an app for the iPad that the MSO launched in April. Viacom filed the suit this morning in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. (See Cablevision Launches iPad App With 280+ Channels .)

Like its earlier spat involving a similar app from Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Viacom's arguing that Cablevision doesn't have the rights to distribute its programming to the popular Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) tablet. Viacom filed its suit against TWC in the same court, but those companies have called a truce while they try to iron it out.

Cablevision defended its app, claiming that its current carriage deal with Viacom covers distribution to the iPad and portrayed the device as being no different from another TV that receives cable programming. Cablevision and TW Cable are limiting the distribution of live TV to the iPad to the customer's home.

"It is cable television service on the iPad, which functions as a television, and is delivered securely to our customers in the home on Cablevision's own proprietary network," Cablevision said, in a statement.

Viacom claims Cablevision needs special permission for that, maintaining that it remains "open to productive discussions" with the MSO.

Why this matters
The outcome of the case could stop TV Everywhere in its tracks, slow down deployments or prevent service providers from duplicating their subscription TV services on IP-connected mobile devices. Battle lines are already being drawn in the home, meaning that lengthy negotiations will likely be necessary before service providers can ever hope to deliver their full lineup outside the home.

The vitriol over this method of iPad distribution could bode well for EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS). Its Sling Media Inc. place-shifting technology has avoided legal entanglements and could curry favor with Tier 2/3 MSOs that are looking to develop TV Everywhere strategies. (See EchoStar's Cable Target: 1 Million Subs .)

For more
Get caught up on the iPad scrapes and cable's TV Everywhere ambitions.



— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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