Just a day after Viacom called a cease-fire in its legal fight with Time Warner Cable over its channels being available for live streaming on the iPad, the programmer has decide to take another cable provider to court over the same issue. Now Viacom’s taking the fight up against Cablevision, which introduced its own streaming iPad app nearly three months ago.
In U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Viacom filed a lawsuit that claims the Cablevision iPad app, which allows subscribers to stream live video feeds in the home, violates the terms of its distribution agreements. It’s therefore seeking injunctive relief and damages for Cablevision streaming 19 of its cable networks to the device.
But based on its accompanying statement, the lawsuit appears to be a negotiating tactic more than anything else:
“We have taken this action to protect our valuable content. Over the last few months, we have had limited and unproductive discussions with Cablevision about licensing iPad rights. We remain open to productive discussions, but we cannot wait indefinitely while our networks are being distributed without permission.”
In other words, Viacom says it’s suing because Cablevision isn’t playing ball in the programmer’s efforts to extract more revenues for iPad rights. If that’s the case, Viacom could be in for a protracted legal fight, as Cablevision historically has shown that it’s not afraid to stand up to programmers in these types of disputes.
Last year, for instance, Cablevision was involved in two high-profile retransmission fights that ended in blackouts of major broadcast content. The first saw ABC disappear from its cable system for a short period during the Academy Awards, and the latter led to a blackout of Fox stations for two weeks during the Major League Baseball playoffs.
Cablevision has also shown a willingness to fight for new technology it thinks provides value to its subscribers. Take the case of the network DVR: Cablevision was taken to court by Cartoon Network after announcing it was coming to market with a product that would record and store shows in the cloud rather than on a set-top box. Cablevision prevailed in that case, with the Supreme Court eventually signing off on the technology.
We expect Cablevision will probably rely on the same type of argument it used in the network DVR case. Just as a DVR service is not substantially different to a consumer whether it be delivered from the hard drive within a set-top box or streaming from the cloud, Cablevision will argue that delivery to an iPad is no different from delivering to a TV. In a statement responding to the lawsuit, it even said as much:
“Cablevision’s very popular Optimum App for iPad, which has been available to our customers for nearly three months, falls within our existing cable television licensing agreements with programmers – including Viacom. It is cable television service on the iPad, which functions as a television, and is delivered securely to our customers in the home on Cablevision’s own proprietary network.”