April 8, 2011

Time Warner Cable, Viacom Battle Over iPad TV

Time Warner Cable has filed a "request for declaratory judgment" asking a federal court to rule that the cable company has the rights under its current contract with Viacom to stream this company's programming through viewing devices of its' customers choosing, which includes Apple Inc.'s iPad tablet.

Viacom countered this suit with another suit seeking damages and asking the court to declare the new Time Warner app in violation of the companies' current agreement. It is also requesting an injunction to stop the cable company from streaming Viacom programming on the iPad and similar devices.

Time Warner, on March 15th, released an app that allows its subscribers to view its services on devices such as the iPad. The app is developed to work only for people who pay for the cable company's video and Internet services. The device must be connected to the company's modem through a Wi-Fi router in the customer's home, reports ABC News.

Since its launch, Time Warner has reported about 360,000 downloads from the 43 channels currently available. CNET News reports that the cable company cut back on the number of available channels after Viacom, News Corporation and Discovery Communications sent out a number of cease-and-desist letters.

In a statement, Viacom said that is has "always negotiated to distribute programming based on specific technologies and devices, and that Time Warner did not do that," reports Reuters.

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

"Viacom has made it clear that it is willing to discuss extension of similar rights to others "“ including TWC," the suit stated.

"What it cannot do, however, is permit one of its contracting partners, TWC, to unilaterally change the terms of its contractual relationship," Viacom claims in its filing.

Time Warner, on the other hand, says, "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."

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, and the availability of high-speed Internet connections, people are able to watch TV in non-traditional ways that do not involve an actual television. Licensing rights for content on these new devices is unclear and answers will most likely be found in court battles such as the suits filed by Time Warner Cable and Viacom in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York N. 11-2387 and No. 11-2376.


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