Summary:

An agreement between Viacom and Time Warner Cable ends a year-long court fight and lets the No. 2 cable service stream channels like MTV and Comedy Central on iPads. But will it finally kick-start the kind of wide-scale dealmaking needed to make TV Everywhere a reality?

TV everywhere
photo: Shutterstock / Angela Waye

Hey, it’s progress. Whether it actually ignites the kind of momentum needed to ultimately propel TV Everywhere to live up to its ubiquitous promise remains to be seen.

On Wednesday, Viacom finally reached an agreement with Time Warner Cable, enabling the pay TV service provider to stream the media conglomerate’s shows on iPads, notebook computers, smart phones and other digital devices.

The agreement ends a 13-month court dispute between the two companies, which started after Time Warner Cable began streaming Viacom cable channels including Nickelodeon, MTV, Spike TV and Comedy Central to its nearly 12 million customers.

In suing the No. 2 cable provider in the U.S., Viacom claimed that Time Warner needed to pay for the right to stream its content. The cable company claimed that its ongoing carriage deal with the conglomerate gave it those rights.

Separately, Time Warner fought Cablevision over the same issue last year. These disputes have caused many to wonder if TV Everywhere — the broad-reaching pay-TV industry initiative that seeks to broaden the reach of bundled subscription television into the digital realm — will ever get done.

With consumers expanding their video usage well beyond the living-room TV screen, the multi-channel industry sees TV Everywhere as the weapon needed to ward off new, so-called “over-the-top” competition from on-demand program distributors like Netflix.

TV Everywhere requires each program supplier to make individual deals with each multi-channel operator. At the time Viacom and Time Warner Cable entered the courtroom, there was a lack of clarity on some very basic and necessary dealmaking infrastructure — i.e. what should the ability to stream video be worth on top of already agreed-upon carriage fees?

So with a streaming deal in place between a top cable programmer and leading cable provider, are we closer to having established those basic terms?

Tough to say yes on that one.

Notably, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision settled their dispute all the way back in August, but that doesn’t seem to have created the kind of template that would spur a sudden flurry of TV Everywhere dealmaking And in the joint statement announcing their agreement Wednesday, Viacom and Time Warner included the following coda: “Neither side is conceding its original legal position or will have further comment.”

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