Time Warner Cable pulls channels as Cablevision pushes ahead

Time Warner Cable yanked a dozen channels from its controversial iPad app on Thursday, just hours after another operator, Cablevision, indicated it was going ahead with a similar service.

Time Warner Cable removed channels from three companies that had slapped it with cease-and-desist orders: News Corp., Discovery Networks and Viacom.

The MSO issued a statement defending its decision. “For the time being, we have decided to focus our iPad efforts on those enlightened programmers who understand the benefit and importance of allowing our subscribers — and their viewers — to watch their programming on any screen in their homes. In the meantime, we will pursue all of our legal rights against the programmers who don’t share our vision.”

A TWC spokesman indicated that more nets will soon join the 20 remaining channels for the app, but none will come from the companies that filed cease-and-desists.

The spokesman declined to specify which channels or how many channels will be added but said it’s possible the new additions will come from companies not currently represented on the app.

Programmers have claimed that Time Warner Cable has no right to make channels available on the app under the terms of existing affiliate agreements. TWC has countered that it is within bounds of the agreement as long as the feeds are delivered strictly within the home.

The removed channels include seven from Viacom (Nickelodeon, BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1 and Spike), three from Discovery (Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet) and two from Fox Cable Networks (FX and National Geographic).

Yanking the channels won’t head off the possibility of a legal faceoff, say sources on both sides who indicate a lawsuit could fly in either direction. The two sides are not currently negotiating.

Meanwhile, Cablevision is forging ahead with its release of an iPad app that streams TV channels similar to one from Time Warner Cable that has drawn cease-and-desist letters from programmers.

A spokesman for the cable operator issued a statement Thursday confirming that Cablevision was moving forward on a trial basis but would go wide pending Apple’s approval of the app.

“We have launched our Optimum App for iPad on Cablevision’s campus and in approximately 100 employee homes, and it works wonderfully. The application has been submitted to Apple and, upon its approval, will be available to our cable television customers.”

Cablevision had previously indicated plans to launch the app by the end of the first quarter, which came to a close Thursday, but remained mum on whether it would go through with it as the controversy over the app enveloped TWC.

Both apps deliver live feeds of TV channels, but Cablevision’s version differs from Time Warner Cable’s in one crucial regard: While TWC delivers a selection of 32 cable channels, Cablevision replicates the entire programming package each subscribers receives, including every channel as well as programming stored on video-on-demand or DVR.

It’s unknown how quickly Apple will approve the Cablevision app, but Apple could respond swiftly given the popularity of the TWC version. Earlier this week, TWC estimated that its app was downloaded 80,000 times.

How programmers will respond to Cablevision’s foray remains to be seen, though insiders noted that legal threats leveled at TWC were intended to intimidate Cablevision as well. But contrary to TWC, which didn’t engage in discussions with programmers prior to the launch of the app, Cablevision had been in active talks with content companies throughout March.

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