March 1, 2024

Media Decoder: Time Warner Pulls Channels From iPad App

Time Warner Cable on Thursday abruptly removed several channels from its app that replicates the TV viewing experience on an iPad.

The cable company withdrew the channels, including MTV and FX, after receiving complaints from three major media companies, Viacom, Discovery Communications and the News Corporation.

The companies have claimed that the iPad app is a contract violation — in part because they want cable companies like Time Warner Cable to pay them more for the privilege to stream their channels to portable devices. Viacom and the News Corporation had sent cease-and-desist letters to Time Warner Cable in recent days.

The iPad, in essence, is the latest battleground for a long-running fight about how television will be delivered in the digital age, and by which companies. Time Warner Cable reaffirmed on Thursday that it believed it had “every right to carry the programming on our iPad app.”

It said in a statement: “But, for the time being, we have decided to focus our iPad efforts on those enlightened programmers who understand the benefit and importance of allowing our subscribers — and their viewers — to watch their programming on any screen in their homes. In the meantime, we will pursue all of our legal rights against the programmers who don’t share our vision.”

Earlier in the week, Time Warner Cable started a public campaign to rally support for the app, which was released in Apple’s app store earlier in the month. “The enthusiasm of our customers and the programming partners who have embraced the app, rather than those who are solely focused on finding additional ways to reach into wallets of their own viewers, has convinced us more than ever that we are on the right path,” the company said Thursday.

A company spokesman said that it would add new channels overnight, effectively replacing the channels that were removed on Thursday. The app previously had 32 channels, only a portion of the channels available through the traditional set-top box.

The debate over the app boils down to this question: When companies like Time Warner Cable buy the rights to beam channels to customers’ television sets, do those rights extend to new screens like iPads? After all, computers, iPads and mobile phones can all act as TV screens.

Other cable companies are working on their own streaming apps for the iPad. Cablevision said Thursday that it had released its app “on Cablevision’s campus and in approximately 100 employee homes and it works wonderfully.”

The company had previously said it would unveil the app by the end of the first quarter, which ends Thursday. “The application has been submitted to Apple and, upon its approval, will be available to our cable television customers,” Cablevision said in a statement.

Cablevision’s app is said to transfer every existing channel and video-on-demand option to the iPad, just like a set-top box. The company declined to say whether it had heard complaints from channel owners.

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