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TW joins suit over DVR

Media companies unite against Cablevision

Time Warner, through its CNN and Cartoon Network divisions, has joined Fox, NBC Universal, CBS Paramount and Disney/ABC in suing Cablevision over a digital video recorder.

The assumption late last week was that TW would not become involved in the legal action of its major-studio brethren because its TW Cable division was a booster of Cablevision’s plan.

The lawsuit claims that plan is illegal because Cablevision is changing the way its subscribers time-shift TV shows: Instead of selling each person a digital cable box with the DVR installed, the cable operator would transmit these shows from a central location to existing digital boxes.

That’s no different from video on demand, the lawsuit says, and the studios have a right to negotiate separate license fees for what looks like an add-on VOD service.

Cablevision’s response is that there’s legally no difference in whether the time shifting of a TV show comes from the individual box in a person’s home or from a massive file server at company’s headend. The customer gets no added benefits from the centrally located remote-storage DVR.

But the benefits to Cablevision, and other big cable operators, could be enormous. They’d end up saving multiple millions of dollars apiece in not having to send installers to every home to set up expensive digital boxes with built-in DVR.

A TW spokesman said the company has joined the suit because it wants to get a legal ruling on the matter. TW Cable would duplicate Cablevision’s blueprint, the spokesman said, “only if the courts declare that it’s legal.”

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