Time Warner Cable, Viacom litigation in 'standstill' mode

Probably realizing they were needlessly sharing money with lawyers over a matter that can better be settled over some coffee and bagels in someone's conference room, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Viacom (NYSE: VIA) have entered into a "standstill" arrangement on existing and potential litigation.

Executives from the two parties shared the stage at an opening session at The Cable Show, perhaps leading to a better understanding that their differences could be worked out like most cable programmer-service provider disputes: in a backroom with lots of privacy.

The issue is straightforward. TWC wants to let its subscribers access its cable programming via their iPads and other tablet devices within the home and it doesn't want to pay any more for the programming to do so. Viacom argues that those devices are not TVs and thus the programmer should be paid more for the viewing. It also contends that there is no way to determine how many eyes are fixed to its programming when it leaves the traditional TV.

Philippe Dauman, Viacom's president-CEO opened the negotiating door a smidgen during a first-day conference at The Cable Show when he said it is "important to continue to collaborate" but a viewing measurement system is needed "so we can sell ads."

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