After weeks of back and forth between Time Warner Cable and its programmers, the provider is bringing back six cable networks that had previously been taken off its controversial iPad app. Those channels, from Fox Networks and Discovery, include FX, the Fox News Channel, National Geographic Channel, the Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet.
Time Warner Cable launched its iPad app about three weeks ago, giving its subscribers access to live TV streams on the tablet device, so long as they were watching those videos at home and while connected to their home networks. Arguing that the iPad was just another screen in the home, it claimed that its distribution agreements gave it the right to offer all its channels to its customers.
Programmers like Discovery, Fox and Viacom disagreed with that assessment, asking to have their stations taken off and sending cease-and-desist letters to Time Warner Cable. In response, the cable company pulled those stations and shortly thereafter added others. Since then, Time Warner Cable and Viacom have taken the issue to court, with both seeking declaratory judgment on whether or not pay TV operators have the right to stream to new devices in the home.
As we’ve noted in our analysis of the case, the brinksmanship between cable companies and the networks is not necessarily about the cost of rights for incremental streams, but about who controls the content and how it can be distributed over new devices:
“[T]he bigger issue is over Viacom’s ability to control how its content is being consumed by viewers. Most importantly, distribution over the Time Warner Cable and other iPad apps would impinge on Viacom’s ability to license its programming to other broadband and mobile distributors, as well as its ability to build and monetize its content through distribution of its own websites and mobile apps.”
Both Fox and Time Warner Cable declined to comment on whether an agreement was reached in the impasse, or if Time Warner Cable had merely put the streams back without approval. Discovery could not be reached at the time of this writing.