February 23, 2024

Media Decoder: Time Warner Cable and Viacom Seek Ruling on iPad App

Time Warner Cable and Viacom each filed lawsuits on Thursday that seek to resolve a stormy dispute in the television business over the right to stream channels to new devices like iPads.

Cable companies like Time Warner Cable say their existing contracts with channel owners like Viacom cover devices like iPads that can be turned into television sets. Some of the channels owners disagree, and they have been exchanging threats with Time Warner Cable ever since its TWCableTV app was released in mid-March.

When Viacom, Scripps Networks, Fox Cable Networks and Discovery Communications threatened legal action a week ago, Time Warner Cable temporarily removed their channels from the app. But it said it would pursue legal options, and on Thursday afternoon, the company filed a request for a declaratory judgment in favor of its app — and against Viacom — in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The company’s general counsel said Time Warner Cable was “asking the court to confirm our view” that the company has the rights to in-home viewing of channels on any screen.

Minutes later, Viacom said it ad filed its own suit in the same court for breach of contract and copyright violations.

In its suit, Viacom asserted that the iPad app amounted to “unlicensed distribution of Viacom’s programming.” It also acknowledged what other channel owners have said privately: that having cable companies like Time Warner Cable extending the TV viewing to tablets could damage its business.

Time Warner Cable’s actions “will interfere with Viacom’s opportunities to license content to third-party broadband providers and to successfully distribute programming on its own broadband delivery sites,” Viacom said.

Viacom has been the most aggressive of all the channel owners in the app battle. A statement accompanying its lawsuit suggested that it expected new payments for the rights to stream to tablets: “With $5.2 billion in cash from operations last year, Time Warner Cable can certainly afford to provide our programming through this new broadband service without passing along any additional costs to its customers.”

Time Warner Cable, with more than 14 million customers, is the second-largest cable company in the United States, after Comcast. Time Warner said Thursday that its app had been downloaded more than 360,000 times. Cablevision, which has about 3.5 million customers, released a more sophisticated streaming app last week, and on Wednesday it said it had counted more than 50,000 downloads.

Other cable companies are known to be developing similar apps, and may face similar rights issues with channel owners.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f422384537823b7d940896ed81d5a808

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