TWC: 'Television is melting,' and it wants more content flexibility

Jim O'Neill
Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) has stirred up a hornet's nest with the rollout of its popular app that streams live TV to Apple's iPad. With more than 300,000 downloads of the app, the company, which launched with 32 channels available to stream, is sticking by its guns that it's within its contractual rights to stream to the iPad, especially since users can only use the app with their own signal at home. Plus, users have to be subscribers to the MSO's high speed Internet service and its cable service.

Content providers, though, aren't buying the argument and TWC is amping up its own arguments to support the play.

On Mondy, TWC ran a blog titled "Television is Melting and I Want My TWCable TV App." Jeff Simmermon, TWC's director of digital communications, wrote:

"The entire concept of television is melting right now. It's oozing off of the credenza and into any number of other rectangular forms. Google TV has a full browser now, the iPad has spectacular HD video, and Samsung and other manufacturers offer product that doesn't need a set-top box.

"We've got broad rights to provide television programming to every screen in your home. We have some agreements that allow for viewing outside the home, and we're likely to add more of those eventually, but this will take some time. Our goal is to make watching any content, any time, on any device anywhere simple and easy for our customers.

"Our customers expect this of us. They already pay billions of dollars a year for television programming, and they should be able to watch it on any screen that they choose. Technology should work to make content easier to work, not harder."

The company launched a website to further push its position that it has the right to broadcast to any screen in a household.

It's turned up the wattage, there, too.

"We've received lots of support for our new app from programmers and consumers," TWC said on the website, "but now, some TV networks want to take the free app away. Why? They're worried about their bottom lines."

Of course they are. And TWC's move to make all of their content available to consumes without any other compensation to those content owners and distributors is similar to ivi TV-which advertised itself as an online cable company, and streamed broadcast signals to subscribers for $4.99 a month. That service was shut down by a judge.

Scripps Networks and Viacom-among others--contend streaming to the iPad violates their contracts, and they want a piece of what is eventually going to be some pretty big action. That they'll get something down the road is inevitable (just keep watching as Netflix continues to pay the piper), how big that piece of the pie turns out to be is a question yet to be answered. -Jim