Cablers take issue with streaming

Cable hopes tablets are magic pill

Is the iPad a whole new media platform or simply just another “smart” TV in the home? That’s the crux of litigation between Viacom — which sees the iPad as separate medium from cable TV — and two cable system giants, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems, which are streaming linear cable channels to those Apple-manufactured devices owned by their subscribers.

Viacom asserted in a lawsuit filed in June did that it did “not grant Cablevision the rights to stream Viacom’s entertainment programming to iPad tablets or other similar portable devices through a cable modem.”

Cablevision, which has 3 million video subscribers, counters that the iPad “functions as a television, and is delivered securely to our customers in the home on Cablevision’s own proprietary network.” Time Warner, which has 14.4 million subscribers, took a similar stance in separate Viacom litigation, which is now in a “standstill” as both parties make progress in out-of-court negotiations.

The cablers say the apps that enable streaming of TV signals to the iPad don’t extend service out of the home or via third-party networks.

Viacom’s beef further spells out damages it claims to suffer from the practice. The viewership of its cable networks on iPad is not captured by the Nielsen ratings, which Viacom points out is used to price TV commercials and also sets a value for programming in syndication sales. Further, Viacom says that “cable streaming” crimps its ability to line up video streaming deals elsewhere and also wring value from streaming of its shows on its own broadband platforms.

Viacom also argues that the streaming is unlawful because it lacks parental control and emergency alert functions that cable TV systems are obligated by law to provide.

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