Get the lawyers on the phone! Cablevision announced on Saturday (4/2) that its “Optimum App for iPad” had been cleared by Apple and made available on the App Store. No doubt numerous content owners are having lawyers fire off cease and desist letters demanding that their cable channels be removed from the service.
While Time Warner Cable complied with demands by Viacom, Discovery, Scripps Networks Interactive and News Corporation to remove their channels from its iPad app, Cablevision seems less likely to do so without a court order. Both cable MSOs insist that their current agreements allow them to deliver cable channels to subscribers on any screen in their homes. Many content owners disagree with that interpretation.
Cablevision says the Optimum App for iPad allows its cable television customers to experience iO TV digital cable – including access to hundreds of channels and video on demand (VOD) – on an iPad in the home. “The application delivers the full cable television experience to the tablet device, and allows the iPad to function as a television. Like all additional outlets, it is free to existing Optimum cable television customers,” the company said on Saturday.
“In addition to approximately 300 live channels and access to VOD, the Optimum App for iPad integrates enhanced guide information that makes it easier than ever before for customers to find the content they already receive as part of their cable television subscription. Programming is fully searchable, including by genre, and the application includes the ability to schedule DVR recordings and manage previously-recorded content,” according to Cablevision.
“This application allows the iPad to function as a television, delivering the full richness and diversity of our cable television service to a display device in the home. It gives our customers the additional flexibility and convenience of watching television throughout the home, in places where set-top boxes might not be ideal or even practical, like the kitchen, bathroom or work room. This is the future of Advanced Digital Cable televisions served with virtual set-top boxes, and just one of many digital displays we are going to be serving through a variety of applications,” said a statement from Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge.
The announcement from the cable MSO emphasized that it is not delivering program to iPads via the Internet, thus ensuring that viewing is only in the cable subscriber’s home. “Cablevision uses its secure and proprietary Advanced Digital Cable television network to deliver cable programming to customers for viewing on the Optimum App for iPad, and content is not delivered over the Internet. The application turns the iPad into an additional television, enabling Cablevision customers to view the same live programming and VOD content already being delivered to other TVs in the home as part of the service they have paid for,” the company said.
And here’s the claim that it is all legal: “Cablevision has the right to distribute programming over its cable system to iPads configured in this way under its existing distribution agreements with programming providers. Cablevision has been serving customers with switched digital cable for more than five years. Advanced Digital Cable allows the company to switch in multiple digital formats, as its customers continue to buy the latest display devices. Customers do not need to have Internet access to use the Optimum App for iPad.”
No doubt that is not the view of some major content owners, so the final word may come from a judge.