iPad Rights Fights Simmer


Cablevision Systems has joined the
iPad party, and not everyone is happy.

On Saturday, April 2, Cablevision Systems’ free
Optimum for iPad app, with access to 300 live TV
channels — and more than 2,000 video-on-demand
titles — became available through Apple’s
App Store.

Two days later, YES Network,
the regional sports network
home of the New York Yankees
and New Jersey Nets, cried foul.

“Cablevision does not have
the right to offer the YES Network
in the manner it is doing so
on the iPad, and it has been notified as such,” the RSN said in a
statement. Cablevision declined
to comment.

That came after some programmers
issued legal challenges
to Time Warner Cable over
its own TWCable TV for iPad
app with access to live TV. Last
month, Discovery Communications,
Fox Cable Networks and
Viacom demanded TWC remove
their networks from the service,
complaining viewing in the tablets
wasn’t allowed under existing carriage deals.
The operator subsequently pulled 12 nets from the
app (“Tempest in a Tablet,” April 4, 2011).

But Cablevision may not be as compliant in the
face of legal challenges. “Do not expect the Dolans
to back down in this battle,” BTIG Research analyst
Richard Greenfield wrote in a research note, referencing
the MSO’s controlling family.

In 2006, content owners sued Cablevision over
the Remote Storage Digital Video Recorder, alleging
copyright infringement. The MSO prevailed in
the case in 2009, which was appealed to the U.S.
Supreme Court.

Both Cablevision and TWC have asserted that
their streaming-video iPad applications are covered
under existing TV carriage deals because the
apps limit viewing to a subscriber’s home, over a
home Wi-Fi network. The programming signals are
delivered over their DOCSIS infrastructure, not the
open Internet.

“Cablevision has the right to distribute programming
over its cable system to iPads configured in
this way under its existing distribution agreements
with programming providers,” the Bethpage, N.Y.-
based MSO said in announcing the iPad app.

Time Warner Cable, for its part, kept the fires
burning on a public-relations campaign defending
the iPad app, running full-page ads with the headline,
“The Future of Television Is in Your Hands,” in
April 4 editions of several newspapers pledging to
fight programmers that have objected to the feature.

“We will continue to fight to unlock the future
of television and give you the freedom and
flexibility to enjoy the content you pay for, in
the privacy of your own home, on the screen of
your choosing,” TWC said in the ad, reminiscent
of publicity campaigns surrounding recent
retransmission-consent disputes.

Not all media companies have a problem having
their networks available for in-home viewing
on iPads.

In a statement about the TWC application, Turner
Broadcasting System said the iPad app lets customers
“watch our live linear networks on a device located
within the home, and we, therefore, agreed to
allow them to expand the number of networks that
they are making available for this application as this
is consistent with the agreement we have with Time
Warner Cable.”

And Discovery may be OK with Cablevision’s
iPad app under the terms of their deal, but not
Time Warner Cable’s. In a statement about the Cablevision
app, Discovery said, “We are open to negotiating
and we do have deals with distribution
partners where similar rights have been recognized
and we have received appropriate consideration
and value.”

The Cablevision app — which was downladed
more than 50,000 times in the first five days —
provides access to the channels available on TV
through a subscriber’s Optimum iO TV package,
although the system currently does not support local
ad insertion.

The app “gives our customers the additional
flexibility and convenience of watching television
throughout the home, in places where set-top boxes
might not be ideal or even practical, like the kitchen,
bathroom or work room,” Cablevision chief operating
officer Tom Rutledge said in a statement.

The Optimum for iPad app lets subscribers
browse, search and set DVR recordings from a TV
listings guide, as well as browse and view free VOD
and on-demand rentals. It also supports closedcaptioning
and parental controls.

The iPad app can be used only through a Cablevision-
supplied cable modem. However, the MSO said
Internet access is not required to use the iPad app:
Video customers who don’t have Optimum Online
data service will be eligible to receive a special
DOCSIS cable modem that has no Web access.