Time Warner Cable removed access to 17 live cable network streams from its iPad app Tuesday evening claiming overwhelming demand forced it to temporarily scale back the service -- leaving 15 in place -- while it also appears several programmers demanded the MSO remove their channels from the app.
According to the No. 2 cable operator, the TWCable TV app for the iPad is available only in a subscriber's home over Wi-Fi and therefore is covered under existing carriage agreements, because the iPad is simply another outlet in the home.
But an executive with a large cable programming group asserted that the MSO's move is out of bounds.
"I imagine TWC has gotten cease-and-desist orders from just about everybody, because most programmer agreements don't cover this kind of usage," the source said. "It has to be negotiated separately, and any agreement with regard to portability has to complement our existing mobile revenue streams."
Time Warner Cable did not comment on questions about programmers' requests to remove their network feeds. Several cable networks contacted the MSO requesting the channels be removed from the app, Adweek reported Tuesday without identifying the companies.
The TWCable TV app for the iPad ranked as the most frequently downloaded free app in Apple's iTunes App Store on Tuesday, the first day of its release.
According to TWC, it has temporarily reduced the number of channels available via the iPad app to 15 in order to help "ease strain on the authentication process while we work on a permanent fix." After the 17 channels are restored, others will be added in future iterations of the app, the MSO said.
"We're thrilled that our customers like the new app and now are able to enjoy television in any room in the house," Time Warner Cable president and chief operating officer Rob Marcus said in a statement Wednesday morning. "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.... We are sorry for any frustration and inconvenience our customers experienced."
Marcus added, "We strive to provide an unparalleled customer experience and are hard at work to ensure that we can meet the demand. We want to thank our customers for their enthusiasm about the app and for their patience as we work through some growing pains."
According to BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield, the channels TWC yanked out of rotation from the TWCable TV app were: ABC Family, Disney Channel, Lifetime Movie Network, Animal Planet, MTV, Nick, Comedy Central, BET, Spike, VH1, CMT, FX, National Geographic, AMC, Univision's Galavision, Travel Channel and Hallmark Channel.
The 15 that remain are CNN, HLN, Discovery, TLC, A&E, History, Fox News, Food Network, HGTV, and NBC Universal's Bravo, CNBC, E!, MSNBC, USA and Syfy.
Originally, Time Warner Cable had listed Turner Broadcasting System's Cartoon Network as being available through the app. However, according to TWC spokesman Alex Dudley, "Cartoon Network was never part of the original lineup. It was inadvertently listed on our website for a time, but we removed it and the channel was never offered."
Meanwhile, the images TWC included on the iTunes App Store listing for the app show BBC America in the lineup but that network also is not currently available on the iPad.
Separately, TWC last fall struck a deal with ESPN to offer simulcasts of ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU online to computers. ESPN expects to add access to tablets and other mobile devices in the future.