Is Cablevision's iPad App More Lawsuit-Proof Than Time Warner Cable's?

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Viacom is just as displeased about Cablevision’s iPad app as it is about Time Warner Cable’s.

But while Viacom has taken the trouble to fight Time Warner Cable in court, it hasn’t done more than gripe about the boys from Bethpage (see Time Warner Cable Seeks Court Ruling To Approve iPad App For Viacom Nets and Viacom Is Still Not OK With Cablevision’s iPad App).

It’s possible that Cablevision’s app was more carefully crafted to comply with the nitty-gritty details of their carriage agreement.

Consider that the Optimum for iPad app includes parental controls and closed captioning. Viacom, in its April 7 lawsuit against TWC, said the MSO’s iPad app fails to comply with Title VI of the Communications Act, because among other things it does not “provide parental control/blocking capabilities.”

Next, Cablevision made a point of calling out that Internet access is not required to use the iPad app. According to the operator, video customers who don’t have Optimum Online data service are eligible to receive a special DOCSIS cable modem that has no Web access, in order to receive the programming delivered to the iPads.

Time Warner Cable requires iPad users to have both broadband and cable TV subscriptions. Viacom, in its lawsuit, notes that the company’s agreements grant TWC “the right to distribute programming, via cable, to TWC’s customers who subscribe to cable television services and not over any other services TWC providers, such as broadband.”

Note, too, that Cablevision’s app supports blackouts, as required under certain sports programming deals, whereas TWC’s currently doesn’t.

But some of Viacom’s objections to TWC’s app also would apply to Cablevision — specifically, the issue of Nielsen not being able to currently track viewing on iPads. The ratings provider said it is working to address iPad viewing as quickly as it can (see Tempest in a Tablet).

“Nielsen does not track iPad viewership of entertainment programming,” Viacom says in the TWC lawsuit. “This is of tremendous significance because Viacom relies on Nielsen ratings to sell advertising time on its networks, and the greater the audience size, the greater the market value of the advertising time.”

In any event, it seems like the Cablevision legal team was very closely involved in the development of the iPad app.

Remember that Cablevision carefully constructed the RS-DVR (now offered as the DVR Plus service) to provide physically separate hard disks for each customer. From an engineering perspective, it would make far more sense to pool disk resources. But the individual disk drives were a key element of the operator’s legal strategy, helping it make the case that the RS-DVR was exactly the same as an in-home DVR.

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