Video services

TW Cable, Viacom Take iPad Fight to Court

The battle over Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC)'s new iPad app is starting to get really messy.

After receiving a cease-and-desist notice from Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA), TW Cable shot back Thursday by asking a federal court to confirm that the MSO has the rights to deliver the live feeds of MTV and other Viacom-owned networks to home-bound iPads.

"We have steadfastly maintained that we have the rights to allow our customers to view this programming in their homes, over our cable systems, without artificial limits on the screens they can use to do so, and we are asking the court to confirm our view," MSO EVP and General Counsel Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum said in a statement. TWC filed its request with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

TW Cable launched the app in mid-March, starting off with access to 32 linear TV channels. The MSO removed 12 of them last week after getting static from Viacom, Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) and Fox, which argued that the MSO's carriage agreement did not include rights for devices such as iPads, even if viewing is restricted to customer homes.

Viacom reinforced that view in a countersuit, holding that it "has always negotiated rights to distribute our content based on specific technologies and devices to ensure that the unique business issues, such as security, product quality and audience measurement, are properly addressed," according to Multichannel News.

TW Cable, which has since added a number of other channels to extend its iPad total to 43, did not name Discovery or Fox in its filing with the New York court. Consumers have downloaded TW Cable's new app more than 360,000 times so far.

Why this matters
How the court rules could have a profound effect on how rapidly MSOs deploy similar applications. If the court sides with Viacom's argument, it could slow down progress, keep the number of channels available to iPads limited, and possibly force TW Cable and other MSOs to renegotiate for that access. If TW Cable comes out of it on top, it could open the floodgates for other operators that have been hesitant to pull the trigger on apps that can stream live TV to iPads and other IP-connected devices.

For more
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

SteveDonohue 12/5/2012 | 5:08:11 PM
re: TW Cable, Viacom Take iPad Fight to Court

I wonder why Viacom isn't also going after Cablevision, which is also distributing the live feeds from its cable channels to Optimum subscribers with iPads, along with about 300 other networks. Maybe Cablevision has terms in its carriage deals that allow for content distribution on mobile devices within a home. Maybe Viacom's attorneys are weary of taking on CVC's legal team, which scored a huge legal victory against Viacom's Paramount Pictures and other studios and networks that fought its network DVR. Or maybe Viacom will focus on killing the live network feeds on Time Warner Cable's iPad app and attempt to squeeze mobile license fees from TWC, before moving on to Cablevision and other MSOs. 

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:08:07 PM
re: TW Cable, Viacom Take iPad Fight to Court

Timely question. Viacom answered that one today in a statement claiming that Cablevision "has seized distribution rights that Viacom has not granted." However, looks at this point that Viacom hasn't gone as far as sending a cease-and-desist letter (yet). JB

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