Video services

Viacom & TW Cable Renew iPad Fight

The battle continues over streaming rights. That and more in today's cable news roundup.

  • Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) was the first MSO to offer live TV on the iPad, but it's still fighting content owners over online distribution rights. Last month the operator tried to do an end-run around Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA) by arguing in court that the conglomeration's CMT channel no longer adhered to its original mission of focusing on country music programming. Because of the shift, Time Warner claimed Viacom was in breach of its contract, and therefore the operator was within its rights to stream CMT content to tablets. Viacom hit back yesterday with a pair of motions suggesting that the move by Time Warner Cable was a political tactic, and that the service provider should not be allowed to "tack on to a federal court action a completely separate and unrelated garden variety contract dispute." (See TW Cable, Viacom Take iPad Fight to Court .)

  • Elsewhere, Time Warner Cable completed the acquisition of NewWave Communications systems in Kentucky and Tennessee. The deal gives TW Cable about 70,000 basic video subscribers, 44,000 high-speed data customers and 28,000 phone subs.

  • In addition to news of rising profits, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) also released a couple of juicy tidbits in its third-quarter earnings call yesterday. Comcast President Neil Smit alluded to the expanded rollout of its Xcalibur service to a "major market" in the first half of 2012. Currently the service is being trialed in Augusta, Ga. MSO CEO Brian Roberts also referred to a new cloud-based app Comcast is testing to allow instant access to several live sports events at once on an iPad. (See Comcast to Swing Xcalibur Wide in 2012.)

  • DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) had a banner third quarter, thanks in no small part to record subscriber additions in Latin America. The company reported 574,000 net new subscribers in Latin America, an additional 327,000 new subs in the U.S. (thank you, NFL Sunday Ticket promo), plus 238,000 new customers coming way of Sky Mexico.

  • Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) says its Horizon hybrid gateway is on track to launch early next year, starting in the Netherlands. The platform includes a 3-D-rendered interface and a search and recommendation engine that combines cable, Internet and personal content. (See Liberty Opens an IP Gateway.)

  • This is a test. This is only a test. TV providers across the country, including cable MSOs, will participate next Wednesday in the first ever test of the Presidential Emergency Action Notification (EAN) system. The EAN system is part of the larger Emergency Alert Service, and next week's test will be jointly conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. ET. Cable customers will see an onscreen message for about three minutes accompanied by an audio feed with an explanation of the new notification system.

  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a decision it made last June stating that cable and satellite subscribers did not have a case with their class-action suit aimed at getting providers to unbundle pay-TV programming. Multichannel News reports the court withdrew that decision on Oct. 31, leaving open the door for further legal debate over à la carte. No reason was given for the reversal.

    — Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

  • craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 4:49:44 PM
    re: Viacom & TW Cable Renew iPad Fight

    Can one of you geniuses out there please figure out a way to put an end to these fights over programming rights on the iPad? These rights issues are stifling innovation. We need an equitable business solution, backed by a great DRM solution that automatically takes care of everyone involved. Otherwise, everyone's going to spend years in court, fiddling away while Rome burns and OTT services overtake television.



    Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:49:42 PM
    re: Viacom & TW Cable Renew iPad Fight

    No doubt. They need to come to an equitable agreement here, but they're both looking out for Number One, knowing what they cobble together here will set the precedent on how these deals look for everyone else.  A big misstep in the negotiations here could have some pretty significant consequences.  But I agree that they need to figure it out quick. They've been at this for a while now and I haven't seen a whole lot of progress... If they don't get this done soon, they risk seeing the NBA figure out its mess first. Jb


    eaqle3c 12/5/2012 | 4:49:42 PM
    re: Viacom & TW Cable Renew iPad Fight

    with everybody suing everybody very actively the lawyers must be very happy. If only anybody could calculate the amount spend on litigation; and by litigation I only mean payment to lawyers and law firms. It would be a sizeable figure that could have been saved or not sucked from end customers.

    shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:49:41 PM
    re: Viacom & TW Cable Renew iPad Fight

    You've identified the bad-behavior enabler exactly -- law suits (two words, in this case). This mad rush to be all delivery platforms to all people also invites a very strong risk of losing focus on the core business, a mistake that most organizations come to regret.

    craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 4:49:40 PM
    re: Viacom & TW Cable Renew iPad Fight

    I was thinking about that too. The amount of money on legal fees that these companies have to sink into these rights battles must be staggering. Plus they have to spend so much time and money working internally on their license contracts, going over endless minutiae and trying to guess how content will be carried in the future. And you're right, these expenses ultimately impact the end user.

    Gosh I wish I had a law degree!


    shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:49:38 PM
    re: Viacom & TW Cable Renew iPad Fight

    But then people would make mean jokes about you and blame you for all bad things that happen. So you'd be like a journalist, but with more money and a better wardrobe (LR crew excepted -- obviously Phil makes sure his people get a liberal clothing allowance).

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