Just one day after Viacom and Time Warner Cable (TWC) announced they were attempting to resolve their iPad app dispute outside of litigation, Viacom filed a lawsuit against Cablevision for its iPad app.
The advent of "TV Everywhere" is causing some major strains between programmers and operators, with relationships a bit schizophrenic of late. Last week, Cablevision’s COO Tom Rutledge talked about all the opportunities for cable’s broadband pipes as far as delivering over-the-top content. At a Guggenheim Media Conference, he said, “It’s really an attractive world we’re about to enter.” (For more, see Cable and Broadband: A Match Made in Heaven?).
The next day Cablevision was hit with Viacom’s lawsuit.
A statement from Viacom said, "Over the last few months, we have had limited and unproductive discussions with Cablevision about licensing iPad rights. We remain open to productive discussions, but we cannot wait indefinitely while our networks are being distributed without permission.”
At the opening session of the recent Cable Show in Chicago, Philippe Dauman, president and CEO of Viacom, commented, "There’s a long tradition of the content side working with the distribution side. I think it is important to continue to collaborate to serve the consumers. Both sides of the equation emerge happy."
Although money and control over the content are at the root of the disputes between programmers and operators, technology plays into the equation.
Cablevision issued the following statement in response to Viacom’s lawsuit:
"Cablevision’s very popular Optimum App for iPad, which has been available to our customers for nearly three months, falls within our existing cable television licensing agreements with programmers – including Viacom. It is cable television service on the iPad, which functions as a television, and is delivered securely to our customers in the home on Cablevision’s own proprietary network.”
Subscribers don’t need to have Internet access to use Cablevision’s iPad app; the content comes from the operator’s headend to an Optimum-authorized cable modem. That modem must be connected to a secured wireless router, which then distributes the content within the subscriber’s home.
In TWC’s case, subscribers who want to use its iPad app must subscribe to high-speed data (HSD) service from either TWC or Earthlink Cable. In this way, the video streams do not go out over the public Internet but stay within TWC’s network.?
But what about EchoStar’s Sling technology that allows subscribers to watch subscription TV on any device, wherever they are? So far, EchoStar has not been sued by any programmers.
"Sling is attached to your set-top box, meaning the content is delivered to your home per the content agreement of your MSO," says Michael Hawkey, vice president/Sales and Marketing at EchoStar. "And once in your set-top box (either live or DVR), Sling then allows the content to be transcoded and transmitted to your mobile device or PC/Mac wherever you are – like a long HDMI cable."
The downside of Sling technology is that the set-top box creates a strict one-to-one relationship. If one person in the household is on a business trip and is watching his or her subscription-TV content on a laptop, that same programming will appear on the home TV. And if a family member at home changes the channel, the channel also will change for the business traveler.
Although EchoStar, TWC and Cablevision are all aiming to provide TV Everywhere, the particulars of how that content gets delivered can be fodder for distribution fights. Operators want the freedom of the cloud, not the ball and chain of the set-top box.