Time Warner Cable Goes to Court Over iPad Live Streaming

Time Warner Cable announced Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit over its right to stream TV content to its customers’ iPads. The company said that it has asked a court for a declaratory judgement ruling that existing “carriage agreements” between the cable company and Viacom include the right for Time Warner Cable (TWC) to deliver content to any device on a customer’s home network.

This is the argument that TWC has publicly made since cable network owners like Viacom, Discovery, Scripps and News Corp.’s Fox Cable Networks began threatening the cable operator with lawsuits over the streaming service, which is limited to iPads that are on the customer’s home network.

The cable network owners believe that Time Warner Cable (and therefore other cable operators) should be paying for the right to send their channels to an iPad, or at least negotiatie for that right, which they do not believe is covered by existing licensing agreements. They are also worried about such issues as audience measurement, as there are no established metrics or methods for measuring audience on an iPad app.

On March 31st, Time Warner Cable pulled 12 channels owned by the above companies from its streaming TV iPad app in the face of threatened lawsuits from the companies. Today’s request for a declaratory judgement is a pre-emptive move by the firm.

“We have steadfastly maintained that we have the rights to allow our customers to view this programming in their homes, over our cable systems, without artificial limits on the screens they can use to do so, and we are asking the court to confirm our view,” Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Time Warner Cable said in a statement.

He added, “With over 360,000 downloads of our TWCableTV app, it is clear that our customers welcome the convenience and flexibility our new app provides.”

For its part, Viacom laid out the case that licensing rights such as these have always been negotiated on a case-by-case basis based on “specific technologies and devices,” and accused Time Warner Cable of making a “blatant grab.”

In a statement issued after Time Warner Cable’s suit was filed, Viacom said, “Instead of addressing these issues, Time Warner Cable simply launched the product without a license to distribute our programming through an iPad app. They blatantly grabbed the rights that their competitors have negotiated in good faith to obtain.”

“Now,” the company added with a rhetorical flourish, “[Time Warner Cable] is asking the Court to declare their brazen acts lawful.”

Viacom said that it will be filing a countersuit, accusing Time Warner Cable of refusing “to even discuss the business issues.”