Texas Court Denies TWC Motion In Viacom Case

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A Texas state district court judge on Monday denied Time Warner Cable's bid to combine its dispute with Viacom over whether CMT has strayed too far from country-music programming with the companies' litigation concerning the TWCable TV iPad app.

Time Warner Cable said in a statement, "This procedural decision has no impact on the merits of the case, which we believe are strongly in our favor, and we look forward to proving that in court."

In an Oct. 3 filing, Time Warner Cable said CMT's country-music programming "has been replaced almost entirely by movies and television series, which for the most part bear no relationship to country music." Viacom had filed an action May 24 in the Texas state court seeking a ruling invalidating TWC's claim that CMT violated the affiliate agreement's content clause.

TWC was seeking to combine the CMT dispute with the case pending in a federal district court in New York about whether the MSO has the rights to distribute Viacom's live TV programming through its in-home iPad app.

Viacom said the disputes are wholly unrelated. "TWC cannot possibly contend that CMT's purported failure to abide by the 2004 Content Clause is somehow linked to TWC's decision to distribute Viacom programming to iPads," the media company said in its motion last week opposing the move.

In the iPad case, Viacom filed a lawsuit April 7 against TWC alleging breach of contract and copyright violation. Time Warner Cable the same day sued Viacom seeking a ruling that the cable operator has the rights under its carriage agreement to deliver Viacom's programming to any device in a subscriber's home. In a joint filing in June, Viacom and TWC entered into a "standstill agreement," which put the litigation on hold while they try to reach terms privately.

Time Warner Cable contends that the iPad app is covered under existing affiliate deals, because the programming is delivered to subscribers in their homes over a secure network to a tablet device that just happens to have a smaller screen than conventional TVs. Viacom's position is that delivering video to iPads does not constitute "cable TV" and requires a separate agreement. In addition, the programmer cited concerns that shows watched on devices such as iPads are not currently counted toward Nielsen ratings.

Cablevision Systems this spring launched a similar iPad app -- and was also hauled into court by Viacom, before the two parties resolved their differences for undisclosed terms. In the last two weeks, both DirecTV and Bright House Networks launched streaming-TV apps that include none of Viacom's networks.