Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) tossed a pebblein the water compared to the iPad app launched today by Cablevision (NYSE: CVC). Optimum Live TV for iPad offers the cable operator’s digital subscribers streaming access to approximately 300 live cable channels and roughly 2,000 VOD options at no extra charge. The company insists the streaming option, which requires WiFi but not internet access, is covered by existing contracts that allow it to transmit to screens within the home. It also says it meets advertising standards.
Each Optimum account can register three iPads but only two can be used at once. Cablevision promises access for other tablets and display devices “functioning as televisions.”
In contrast, the Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) Cable app includes about one-tenth of the channels; the actual count varies given TWC’s deletion of some channels after programmers threatened legal action and its addition of others. The cable operator added a batch of networks Friday after dropping networks from Fox Cable, Viacom (NYSE: VIA) and Discovery. The TWC app uses WiFi; subscribers must use either its Roadrunner or Earthlink (NSDQ: ELNK) as an ISP. Despite taking down some of the channels, insists it has the right to distribute live channels it licenses in home to any screen.
Cablevision, which has had very public contract tiffs with Disney (NYSE: DIS), Fox and Scripps in the last 18 months, says it’s providing a virtual settop and already has the right to do so under existing agreements. Here’s the description from the release:
Cablevision uses its secure and proprietary Advanced Digital Cable television network to deliver cable programming to customers for viewing on the Optimum App for iPad, and content is not delivered over the Internet. The application turns the iPad into an additional television, enabling Cablevision customers to view the same live programming and VOD content already being delivered to other TVs in the home as part of the service they have paid for. 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.
The tech requirements include Optimum digital cable, at least one digital cable box, an Optimum cable modem and WiFi. But subscribers don’t have to get broadband; Cablevision will supply an internet-blocked modem that works with the cable network and the WiFi network. The terms of service spell out several conditions for use, including the need to password protect the home network for security and a ban on using Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) Airplay to transfer audio or video viewed through the app to any other device inside the home. Cablevision says the password protection is “in addition to the fact that the underlying television signals delivered from Cablevision’s headend are themselves encrypted all the way to the iPad.”
So far, the programmers I’ve reached out to are staying mum. Some have yet to decide how to respond to TWC’s effort and may be looking for the right approach to both.
If you have access to the app and are willing to share your experience please leave a note in the comments or contact me at staci AT paidcontent.org. Release.
Update: Early Monday morning, Optimum for iPad was ranked #12 in overall free apps in the iTunes store with 217 ratings and a four-star average with some rave reviews. There were also a batch of complaints about problems getting the app to work. We’ve had a couple of early reviews from readers trying it out over the weekend; neither reported problems. Cablevision declined to say whether it’s had any complaints from programmers.
But spokesman Jim Maiella did provide an answer to my question about how the app would work with tracking users for ratings: “The Optimum App for iPad meets all the technical requirements for audience measurement. Nielsen is working to enable this functionality in its Nielsen homes, and our experience is that Nielsen has innovated in a timely way with the transition from analog to multiple digital and HD viewing formats used by distributors. This next advancement in audience measurement is important, because many television screens being marketed and planned use new digital formats. Cablevision also has a strong interest in this, since we generate more than a half a billion dollars a year in advertising revenue on products rated by Nielsen.”
Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable continues its PR campaign with full-page ads and its push to add channels. The latest five are Bloomberg, Sprout, Hallmark Movie, Current and TruTV. That’s in addition to the largest batch Friday, which included top networks from NBCUniversal, Disney and Turner.