DirecTV released an upgrade to its free iPad app that lets subscribers with HD DVRs watch 38 channels live on their tablets over a home Wi-Fi connection.
The feature is similar to live TV streaming apps Cablevision Systems and Time Warner Cable launched earlier this year -- generating complaints from some programmers that the feature violated current distribution agreements.
Viacom was the only programmer that took the issue to court, suing both Cablevision and TWC. The media company reached an agreement with Cablevision resolving the dispute but has not yet come to terms with Time Warner Cable. DirecTV's live TV lineup on its iPad app does not currently include any Viacom networks.
The channels available through DirecTV's app are: TBS, TNT, USA Network, FX, Fox News, Fox Soccer, Fox Business Network, Discovery, CNN, A&E, NHL Network, SyFy, MSNBC, CNBC, BTN, TLC, Planet Green, Tennis Channel, NBA.TV, Lifetime, Audience Network, Cartoon Network, Bravo, Hallmark Channel, HGTV, Animal Planet, Speed, History, Nat Geo, MLB Network, Science, Versus (NBC Sports Network), Food Network, Bio, Golf Channel, Univision, Travel Channel and NFL Network.
DirecTV noted that "live TV streaming is currently available only within your home, in the same Wi-Fi network your HD DVR is connected to."
The cable companies have argued that because the live TV is available only within a subscriber's home, the feature is covered under existing carriage deals. Programmers including Viacom counter that it's a different use case, on a non-TV device, that requires a separate agreement.
DirecTV's live TV feature requires customers to have a Plus HD DVR (models R22, HR20, HR21, HR22, HR23 and HR24 or higher) connected to the Internet. In addition, users must have a wireless router connected to the home Internet network.
DirecTV launched the first iteration of the iPad app in February 2011, with the ability to change channels, search listings and program DVR recordings.