Cablevision has just released a new app that will make all the same live cable and on-demand programming that viewers can watch on their TVs also available on Apple iPads. The release of the new app comes as a battle is brewing between pay TV providers — who wish to create applications and user interfaces for viewing TV content on new devices — and cable network programmers, who claim those devices are not covered as part of their existing distribution agreements.
Time Warner Cable, for instance, has spent the past week embroiled in a back-and-forth with Discovery, Fox and Viacom over live streams of cable networks that were available on its iPad app. After receiving complaints and cease-and-desist letters from some programming partners, Time Warner Cable relented and removed 11 channels from the app, before eventually replacing that content with more than 20 national and local cable networks.
The Cablevision app takes an even bolder step. While Time Warner Cable’s iPad offering only launched with 32 cable networks, Cablevision is making 300 cable channels available for live streaming, and extending the app to also include movies and TV shows from its video-on-demand offering. At launch, that will include more than 2,000 VOD titles, with more being added as the cable provider encodes them for IP distribution.
Cablevision’s iPad app also includes advanced search functionality that lets users search programming based on genre, cast members, time of day and favorite channels. Like mobile apps from Comcast, Dish Network and DirecTV, subscribers can also schedule and erase DVR recordings directly from their mobile device.
Like Time Warner Cable, Cablevision maintains that delivering live streams to the iPad is covered under its distribution agreements with programmers. In its press release, Cablevision argues that the application “turns the iPad into an additional television” to deliver all the same content that is available on other screens in the house. It goes on:
“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.”
The iPad app will likely become one more battleground for Cablevision, which has had a contentious relationship with programmers over the last year. In 2010, Cablevision was behind two of the highest-profile cable blackouts during a year that saw a record number of fights over retransmission agreements. In March 2010, Disney blacked out its ABC broadcast network in Cablevision homes for a few minutes during the Academy Awards after the two companies failed to reach an agreement. And in October, baseball fans missed several games of the Major League Baseball playoffs, including a few World Series games, as Cablevision and News Corp. were embroiled in a retransmission dispute that kept Fox networks off Cablevision systems.