Cable Operators

TWC App Prompts Gadget Agita

3/21/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Thousands of Time Warner Cable
customers last week rushed to download the operator’s
new iPad app to watch live TV on their tablets
— and quickly crashed the system.

Many cable programmers weren’t as excited.
Their complaint: TWC was improperly assuming
distribution rights it hadn’t obtained.

Scripps Networks, for one, released a statement
that it had “not granted iPad video-streaming
rights to any distributor and is actively addressing
any misunderstandings on this issue.” Others
disgruntled by Time Warner Cable’s app included
Fox Cable Networks and Viacom.

Time Warner Cable did not comment on the
programmers’ requests to remove their network
feeds.

The MSO’s position is that the iPad app is
functionally equivalent to an additional outlet in the
home, and thus covered under existing TV-carriage
deals. TWC is making the service available only within
an individual subscriber’s home, over a Wi-Fi network,
to customers with both broadband and expanded basic or
higher video service.

But network owners say that doesn’t wash.

“I imagine TWC has gotten cease-and-desist orders
from just about everybody, because most programmer
agreements don’t cover this kind of usage,” one cablenetwork
executive told Multichannel News. Those rights
must be “negotiated separately, and any agreement with
regard to portability has to complement our existing mobile
revenue streams.”

TWC is making 32 channels available through the TWCable
TV app, including A&E Network, Bravo, CNBC, CNN
and HLN, Discovery, HGTV, History, Food Network, Fox
News, E!, MSNBC, TLC and USA Network.

Turner Broadcasting System, an erstwhile corporate
cousin of TWC, said in a statement about the operator’s
iPad app: “Our goal is to make our networks available on
a widely distributed, authenticated basis to our subscribers.
We are actively in discussions with our distribution
partners to make TV Everywhere a reality.”

Turner did not offer an explanation for why CNN and
HLN are available through the Time Warner Cable app,
but its more popular entertainment networks — TBS and
TNT — are not.

Also missing from the operator’s iPad app: ESPN. Last
fall, TWC struck a deal with ESPN to offer simulcasts of
ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU online to computers. The sports
programmer expects to add access to tablets and other
mobile devices in the future.

The initial version of the TWCable TV app includes
a “mini-guide” to navigate the channels. Additional
services, including remote-control functionality,
video-on-demand viewing capability and the ability
to program DVRs, will be added in future releases, according
to TWC.

POPULARITY CONTEST

On March 15, the day the TWCable TV for iPad app was
released, overwhelming demand caused the system to
crash at around 8 p.m. Eastern. Time Warner Cable took
17 channels out of the lineup, to ease the strain on the authentication
process.

“The new app’s popularity was so strong that it unfortunately
overwhelmed the system, causing an inability for
some customers to download it on Tuesday evening,” TWC
president and chief operating officer Rob Marcus said in
a statement.

The cable operator restored the full 32-channel lineup
around midday the following day. But as BTIG Research
analyst Rich Greenfield wrote in blog update: “All 32 channels
are back up on TWC’s iPad app — now the question
is, will programmers actual[ly] sue and issue cease-anddesist
letters?”

Other major pay TV providers have moved to deliver
video to iPads, as well, but
have adopted different approaches.

Dish Network released a
free iPad app in December
2010 that provides access
to all of a customer’s TVchannel
lineup, including
local channels as well as
DVR content, over an Internet
connection. However,
the app requires a user
to have the “SlingLoaded”
ViP 922 DVR or proprietary
set-top-connected Sling
Adapter.

Comcast, for its part, expects
to make live TV available
on iPads and iPhones
— over any Internet connection
— by striking mobile
licensing deals with
programmers. Last month
the MSO announced an expanded
deal with Turner to provide access to live streams
of some networks, subject to certain restrictions, on mobile
devices.

Cablevision Systems, for its part, has promised to provide
an iPad app for in-home access to live TV, akin to
TWC’s approach.

TABLET TV

Channels available through TWC’s iPad app:

AETN: A&E, History, Lifetime Movie Network

ABC/Disney: ABC Family, Disney Channel

Comcast/NBC Universal: Bravo, CNBC, E!, MSNBC, Syfy, USA Network

Crown Media: Hallmark Channel

Discovery Communications: Discovery, Animal Planet, TLC

Fox: Fox News Channel, FX, National Geographic

Rainbow Media: AMC

Scripps: Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel

Turner: CNN, HLN

Univision: Galavisión

Viacom/MTV Networks: BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nick, Spike, VH1

SOURCE: Time Warner Cable

March