That angry buzzing noise you hear is the hornet's nest stirred up by Long Island, N.Y.-based MSO Cablevision (NYSE:CVC), which Saturday rolled out an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad app that gives subscribers access to what the cable provider says is all of its available content, including nearly 300 linear TV channels, 2,000 on-demand videos and also allows users to control their DVRs using the app. (Check out a fact sheet about the app here.)
A similar app that Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) launched last month--and one that offered just 30-some channels at launch--caused so much ado with content owners that the cable operator Friday pulled a dozen of the channels down from their iPad offering. It since has added other channels.
Cablevision--which last autumn got into a brouhaha with News Corp. over carriage fees for Fox programming that actually blacked out subscribers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for several weeks--is offering the free app to subscribers and contends that the iPad functions as a television in the home.
"This application allows the iPad to function as a television, delivering the full richness and diversity of our cable television service to a display device in the home," said Tom Rutledge, Cablevision's chief operating officer. "It 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. This is the future of Advanced Digital Cable televisions served with virtual set-top boxes, and just one of many digital displays we are going to be serving through a variety of applications."
Programmers, by and large, have disagreed. Last week, Discovery Communications, Fox and Scripps Networks made enough noise, including inferring they might pursue legal action against TWC, that the operators removed their streams from the iPad app.
Cablevision Saturday was adamant in its position that programming on its Advanced Digital Cable television network isn't delivered over the Internet and that its Optimum App for iPad simply turns the iPad into an additional television, just like other TVs in subscribers' homes.
"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 company maintained. "Cablevision has been serving customers with switched digital cable for more than five years. Advanced Digital Cable allows the company to switch in multiple digital formats, as its customers continue to buy the latest display devices."
Cablevision's iPad app agreement differs from TWC's in that Cablevision customers don't need to be high-speed Internet subscribers in addition to cable subscribers. TWC requires both services.
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