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Updated: Cablevision Launches Optimum for iPad: 300 Channels And VOD

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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 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.

6 Responses to “Updated: Cablevision Launches Optimum for iPad: 300 Channels And VOD”

  1. David Polakoff

    To be first to market, do entertainment industry corporations need to act more nimbly, entrepreneurially, and (Dick) Cheney-esque?

    In another rare circumstance, I side with the cable company on their efforts to allow me to view their delivered service on a television or (in-home) un-wired screen device. The cable companies have to be worried about cord cutting and are thus being proactive in meeting consumers’ demand for in-home viewing choice and control. I salute the efforts of the cable companies to be first to market and agitate competitors from supplanting their traditional stranglehold.

    David Polakoff
    More at “Rogue Wave” –

  2. Sounds like already there’s some positive feedback coming in and I’m sure any technical problems [if any] will soon settle down. This app allows Consumers to make the choices they want, afterall the iPad and tablet market is surely here to stay.

    Whilst there maybe debates over programming/distribution rights, this is exactly the diversification and forward thinking that Cable operators need to adopt, in order to survive and compete head to head with other communications / media providers.

    Its time to listen to what Consumers want / need and the lifestyle’s they have…. isn’t it great that a family unit can all sit in the lounge and not fight over which channel to watch? The kids, mom or dad with their earphones watching the iPad whilst someone else watches another channel on the HD TV. Great for the family unit.

    It also lets Cable operators embrace the concept of personalization of content and purchases, all of which are essential to them maintaining the video edge over the competition, from the likes of YouTube and the others, where the iPad is becoming a key portal.

    Cable MSO’s need to continually evolve their pricing and packaging with specific personalized, convergent and real-time services which are relevant to the subscribers lifestyle choice.

  3. Quick update – at least for the NCAA game, it seems that the Cablevision app is running on about a 45-second delay vs the live broadcast.
    Also, using the DVR,i’m able to see what’s been recorded but it’s not letting me watch them.

    UPDATE: Turns out you cannot watch DVR-recorded items on the iPad. The DVR controls are just for setting fugure recordings or editing/deleting old ones. In other words, the same functionality they have had in their previous Optimum app.

  4. Watching the UConn – Kentucky game on my iPad without any issues.
    This is exactly how it should work. Will test out the DVR functions later.
    I’m sure the C&D letters will come on Monday, but hope they win out. Can’t recall the last time that Cablevision was the “good guy” but maybe the Dolans are finally doing something right.

    No need for sling box if this works

  5. Steve Johnson

    Downloaded and installed it, no problem.
    For NCAA basketball, the picture took maybe 30 seconds to settle down and then was very clear.
    Tried it on the back patio, perhaps 75 feet from the cable box, no problem. But when I walked down to the garage, 125 feet away, I lost the connection.
    No problem watching the TV while watching this as well. Having the cable channel guide on the iPad while watching TV is great. You can also turn on closed captions, although you need to reboot the program for it to work.
    I don’t have an Optimum DVR, so I couldn’t check out how those controls worked.
    But no question this adds real value, both to the Cablevision subscription and to the iPad. A lightweight portable TV I can take anywhere in the house, at no extra cost!