Viacom to Ops: Pay Up for iPad-Video Rights

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Viacom wants operators to
put up or shut off Jersey Shore and its
other shows on a tablet — and any Internet-
connected video device.

The latest chapter of the industry’s
f ight over streaming video to iPad
apps unfolded last week with the media
giant dragging Cablevision Systems
into court, while at the same
time it agreed to suspend litigation
with Time Warner Cable on the very
same issue as those companies look
to resolve their dispute.

As it had in the complaint against
TWC, Viacom charged that Cablevision’s
iPad app violated their distribution

“Over the last few months, we have
had limited and unproductive discussions
with Cablevision about licensing
iPad rights,” Viacom said in a statement.
“We remain open to productive
discussions, but we cannot wait indefi -
nitely while our networks are being distributed
without permission.”

Viacom is seeking $2 million per
trademark violation, plus unspecified monetary damages
and to permanently enjoin the cable operator
from distributing its programming via the iPad app
“and any other new and/or emerging media technology
platforms not expressly created by the agreements.”

According to the lawsuit, when the companies have
previously expanded their programming-distribution
deals, “Viacom received additional consideration from
Cablevision for each additional right granted under
the amendments.”


Cablevision responded: “Cablevision’s very popular
Optimum App for iPad, which has been available to
our customers for nearly three months, falls within
our existing cable television licensing agreements with
programmers — including Viacom. It is cable television
service on the iPad, which functions as a television,
and is delivered securely to our customers in the
home on Cablevision’s own proprietary network.”

Viacom filed the lawsuit June 23 in the U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of New York, the same
court that was hearing the TWC-Viacom complaints.

In early April, Cablevision released the free iPad
app, which lets subscribers watch up to 300 live TV
channels and access more than 2,200 video-on-demand
titles depending on their subscription level.

At the time the MSO — trying to show that the app was
consistent with the terms of its existing carriage agreements
— was careful to point out that it supports closedcaptioning
and parental controls, and is available to any
video customers whether or not they subscribe to the Optimum
Online broadband service. (For video-only subscribers,
Cablevision will provide a limited-function DOCSIS
modem that provides only the streaming video.)

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.

In the past, Cablevision has dug in its heels in the
face of legal challenges. In 2006, content owners sued
Cablevision over the Remote Storage Digital Video Recorder,
alleging copyright infringement. The MSO prevailed
in 2009, which was appealed to
the U.S. Supreme Court.


Separately last week, Time Warner
Cable and Viacom’s “standstill agreement”
freezing their lawsuits was
approved by the court June 22. The
Viacom networks remain unavailable
through the TWCable TV app.

The “standstill agreement,” which went
into effect June 17, may be terminated by
either party given five days notice. The
companies declined to comment beyond
what was in the joint court filing.

The suits were originally filed in
April, with Time Warner Cable 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 and
Viacom alleging breach of contract and
copyright violation.

TWC launched the app on March 15.
Viacom immediately sent a cease-anddesist
letter to the cable operator, demanding
that its networks be removed.
Those channels were BET, CMT, Comedy
Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1.

Discovery Communications and News Corp.’s Fox Cable
Networks also demanded TWC pull their networks, but
subsequently both reached agreements with the operator
and their networks were returned to the service April 15.