Time Warner Cable, Viacom sue each other over iPad TV

NEW YORK Thu Apr 7, 2011 5:21pm EDT

An Apple iPad is pictured showing live television channels during a demonstration in New York, August 18, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

An Apple iPad is pictured showing live television channels during a demonstration in New York, August 18, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Time Warner Cable and Viacom Inc on Thursday countersued each other in an escalating battle over whether cable companies have the right to distribute TV shows to devices like Apple Inc's iPad tablet.

Time Warner Cable asked a court for a declaratory judgment regarding Viacom's demand that the cable company stops delivering its programing on devices like the iPad.

The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court said Viacom had threatened legal action against TWC for transmitting Viacom services to TWC cable subscribers who wish to use iPads in their homes as an additional screen to watch their cable service.

It asks the court to declare that TWC is not infringing any copyrights held by Viacom by providing services to its subscribers, including through the TWCable TV iPad App, a "Smart TV" application "and other comparable applications and services."

Viacom's suit seeks damages for what it says is TWC's breach of their licensing and distribution agreements.

"Viacom has made clear that it is willing to discuss extension of similar rights to others -- including TWC. What Viacom cannot do, however, is permit one of its contracting partners, TWC, to unilaterally change the terms of its contractual relationship," it said in the suit.

The legal action follows a March 15 decision by Time Warner Cable to launch an iPad app which allows iPad owners to view some of their favorite channels while they are in the home.

Viacom, News Corporation and Discovery Communications have ordered Time Warner Cable to stop the practice, saying that their current carriage agreements do not permit the cable company to deliver live programing on devices like the iPad.

Time Warner Cable argues that the network owners are imposing "artificial limits" on the screens it can distribute programing to customers.

Viacom said in a statement it has always negotiated to distribute programing based on specific technologies and devices. It said Time Warner Cable did not do that.

"Time Warner Cable simply launched the product without a license to distribute our programing through an iPad app. They blatantly grabbed the rights that their competitors have negotiated in good faith to obtain."

The Time Warner Cable app now has 43 channels and has been downloaded about 360,000 times, according to the cable company.

Cablevision Systems Corp launched its own iPad app on Saturday offering nearly 300 channels. It said it has had more than 50,000 downloads.

Both Time Warner Cable and Viacom's suits was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York No. 11-2387 and No. 11-2376.

(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke and Grant McCool; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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Comments (1)
I’m not surprised to see this and I suspect that because of how content and content distribution is evolving, litigation will be the primary way that new agreements will be constructed.

Instead of spending all this money making lawyers wealthy, perhaps these companies should work on new commercial models to reflect the convergence of distribution technologies. This is not something that is new, consumers want to be able to have ubiquitous access to all content regardless if its traditional cable, wired Internet, mobile Internet, etc.

In reality this opens opportunities for all companies to create more efficiencies and scale. It should also bring back a focus on the the content and making it more valuable to consumers. Isn’t that their primary business?

Apr 08, 2011 9:43am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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