Cablevision cannonballs into the iPad cable TV pool

Jim BartholdCablevision Systems (NYSE: CVC) has cannonballed into the iPad video experience, challenging those straight-laced, Neutrogena-coated content lifeguards to stop 'em if they can.

The move's not a surprise. Cablevision likes to make waves. Sometimes that works out, such as pushing and pushing and pushing until a remote-server DVR (RS-DVR) became a reality; sometimes it doesn't, such as banging retransmission consent heads with News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA) at the same time its Fox Networks was carrying the New York Yankees playoff games. The bitterness of that experience still lingers in the tri-state region.

Cablevision's challenge to programmers was explicit in the official news release: "The application delivers the full cable television experience to the tablet device and allows the iPad to function as a television. Like all additional outlets it is free to existing Optimum cable television customers."

Those words are like chum for the programming sharks circling the deep end of the pool. Full cable television experience? To something other than a television? Free? You can see the lawyers' word processors--maybe they even use Apples--firing up as they begin the onslaught of cease, desist, stoppit, we're warning you, we're not fooling notices.

Cablevision's New York neighbors, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), of course, tried to deliver only a part--32 channels being a really small part--of the cable television experience to the iPad and the programmers and content providers latched onto them like so many jellyfish, stinging and annoying until they pulled 12 channels off the Apple device.

Now along comes Cablevision stating in a well-timed Saturday news release: "The application turns the iPad into an additional television."

That's the key, of course. Turning the iPad into an additional television. How can programmers argue that their content isn't intended for an "additional television" even if it isn't hooked into a set-top box or a coaxial cable? It's just another screen.

It seems an inarguable point, and it should be interesting how it transforms into a major argument. Though it leaves one question: why anyone technologically savvy enough to own an iPad would want to watch television on the device when, more than likely, there's at least one huge HDTV nearby in the residence.--Jim

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