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Time Warner Cable blinks first in fight with programmers over iPad app

March 31, 2011 |  1:33 pm

Time Warner Cable has blinked first in its fight against cable programmers who didn't want their networks streamed on Apple's iPad.

After getting complaints from News Corp., Discovery and Viacom, Time Warner Cable pulled their programming off of its new iPad app that allows its cable subscribers to view live TV in their homes via the tablet devices. Among the dozen channels pulled were Viacom's MTV and Comedy Central, News Corp.'s FX and Discovery's TLC.

Channels that remain available include Disney's ABC Family and Comcast's Bravo.

Time Warner Cable said it still believes it has the right to carry programming via the iPad and will look at its legal options with regards to the programmers who complained.

"We will continue to fight to ensure that our customers have access to the content they pay for, no matter which screen in their home they choose to view it on," the company said in a statement.

The fight between Time Warner Cable and programmers over the iPad has been going on practically since the first day the app was introduced earlier this month. Time Warner Cable had launched an aggressive advertising campaign, promoting its iPad application and how it will  enable viewers to enjoy television in the rooms in the house where they don’t have a TV. One ad shows a woman taking a bath and watching her iPad.

On the surface, something that allows people to consume TV on new platforms in the comfort of their own home should be seen as a good thing. Viewers are watching television, so who cares what device it is being watched on?

Naturally, much of this debate is ultimately about money. Time Warner Cable delivers the signals to the iPad via Internet protocal over its private network, not through the set-top boxes that sit by the TVs of its subscribers. That means that the viewing being done on an iPad does not exist in the eyes of Nielsen, the ratings service. If viewers start migrating from TV to the iPad and Nielsen isn't tracking it, then networks fear they won't get paid by advertisers for everyone they are delivering.

Delivery through the Internet, programmers argue, is not part of their deals with distributors such as Time Warner Cable, which has countered that it believes it is on solid legal ground. 

Cablevision's app is different from Time Warner Cable's, in that its signal is delivered to the house over the cable network and a wireless router gets it from the cable modem to the iPad.

-- Joe Flint

Previous posts:

News Corp. tells Time Warner Cable to stop streaming its channels on iPad

For Time Warner Cable, it's better ask forgiveness than permission when it comes to iPad

For the record: This post was corrected to reflect that Time Warner Cable's iPad app is delivered via its own private network.