UPDATE, 1:49 PM: Here’s Cablevision’s response to Viacom’s action today: “Cablevision’s agreements with programmers allow us to deliver cable television service to our customers, regardless of how many or what kinds of televisions they have in the home. Programmers are paid based on how many homes we securely connect to their content, not how many televisions display it, so they have never questioned whether a customer has a single TV or a dozen 50-inch flat panels in the home –- it’s all cable television. Optimum App for iPad simply turns the iPad into another television in the home, and one it is worth noting our customers are finding particularly enjoyable and easy to use.”
PREVIOUS, 12:49 PM: Cablevision last week quietly unveiled its own iPad app to rival one from Time Warner Cable, whose app has gotten plenty of notice because it took down a bunch of channels after companies like Viacom, Fox, Scripps and Discovery Communications filed cease-and-desist letters, arguing that the cabler doesn’t have the proper licenses to stream content for its subscribers on other platforms besides TVs. On Thursday, that spat continued: Time Warner Cable filed a suit in New York seeking a declaratory judgment to affirm rights to Viacom’s channels, and Viacom countered with a suit alleging breach of contract among other things.
But the Wall Street Journal reports today that Viacom has complained about Cablevision’s Optimum app, which streams all of the cabler’s content to its subscribers’ iPads. (So far, Optimum had only gotten guff from the regional YES Network — not a surprise, given their history with Cablevision’s former MSG Network in New York — and Major League Baseball.) “Cablevision has seized distribution rights that Viacom has not granted,” Viacom told the WSJ today. “We will take the steps necessary to ensure that Cablevision respects our rights.”
At issue is whether agreements between programmers and carriers include language related to platforms other than the TVs. Cablevision delayed its product to after Time Warner Cable launched its app, surely in part to see how the wind was blowing with content providers. How these disputes play out will be of great interest to industry players, who will be watching for precedents to be set as more and more of these types of streaming products roll out.