Photos from the Cable & Telecommunications Human Resources Association's annual Symposium and Awards Luncheon, held in Atlanta on May 2.
As Time Warner Cable draws a line in the digital sand to give its subscribers unfettered access to TV content, some programmers are peeved that the big cable operator didn’t ask for “rights” to deliver their programming to an iPad.
In our cover story this week, Todd Spangler takes an in-depth look at both sides of the argument. The iPad app lets TWC customers stream live TV to their tablet over their in-home TWC Internet connection. But programmers such as Discovery Communications, Fox Cable Networks and Viacom said the service was essentially another distribution channel, which required negotiations (read: money).
It’s highly doubtful the dispute will actually go to court: Do networks really want to sue the cable operators that pay them more than $30 billion a year in license fees and have the ultimate power to boot them from the box?
Far from apologizing, Time Warner Cable has taken its fight public, where opinion usually falls with the least-expensive option. Here, TWC has a distinct tactical advantage. Subscribers certainly like the new app, and will reasonably ask why programmers aren’t making the content available. TWC helpfully explains its side on its website, describing the dissenting networks as “those who are solely focused on finding additional ways to reach into the wallets of their own viewers.”
Says TWC: “We will continue to fight to ensure that you have access to the content you pay for, no matter which screen in your home you choose to view it on.”
Programming networks are forced to deny this logic in a more important court: that of public opinion. Programmers will have to provide a passionate response about how content is still king and worth every penny - at a time when the very definition of TV is in flux, and the FCC is considering mandating that cable and satellite operators provide viewing access on multiple devices.
Despite all the drama, the rights issue will be negotiated. But time is not on cable’s side. Relative to competitors like Apple and Netflix, cable operators have lagged in the delivery of multiplatform TV programming. Delaying the rollout of such an innovative product and denying consumer demand seems counter to good business.
Right or wrong, Time Warner Cable has now forced the players to deal with the issue more quickly.