Do distribution rights include the iPad and future applications? Time Warner Cable thinks so.

Time Warner Cable iPad application

On March 15, Time Warner Cable launched its iPad application allowing TWCable customers to watch 32 live streaming channels on their tablet computer. It allows users to watch live television and to make any room the TV room, but only by using the Ipad’s WiFi connection, Time Warner Cable Internet Service, and being subscribed to the Time Warner cable video package, in order to control the use and comply with distribution contracts. This TWCable TV for Ipad application is one of the first applications launched by a big cable company as a reaction to the changing broadcasting and distribution landscape.

Jeff Simmerson, director of digital communications at TWC, describes the introduction of the application and the changes within the industry on the Time Warner Cable blog,

I can say that we currently deliver content to your iPad in the same way we deliver it to your TV set, over our own managed network. You pay for the right to view this content in your home already and we want you to be able to do it on your iPad too.

The entire concept of television is melting right now. It’s oozing off of the credenza and into any number of other rectangular forms. Google TV has a full browser now, the iPad has spectacular HD video, and Samsung and other manufacturers offer product that doesn’t need a set-top box.

Contracts and distribution rights

An honest perspective and an innovative reaction to the needs of the more demanding customer. However, programmers of several channels filed complaints about the streaming of content to the iPad since, in their interpretation of the contract, this wasn’t covered by the distribution agreement. As a result, Time Warner cable received several cease-and-desist letters from programmers demanding that their content was pulled from the app. As Brian Stelter wrote in the New York Times:

Time Warner Cable on Thursday abruptly removed several channels from its app that replicates the TV viewing experience on an iPad.The cable company yanked the channels, including MTV and FX, after receiving complaints from three major media companies, Viacom, Discovery Communications and the News Corporation.

As a reaction Time Warner Cable launched a website called to promote the iPad application and giving customers insight in the ongoing debate. This debate comes down to the question whether the iPad is just another screen in the house to watch television programs the customer already paid for, or is this a new device or technique which is not covered in the licensing contract. For Time Warner Cable the answer is clear, and by limiting its users by only allowing them to use the application on a WiFi internet connection provided by Time Warner Cable, they see the iPad merely as another screen in the house. The website states:

We believe we have every right to carry programming on the iPad app.  But, for the time being, we have decided to focus our iPad efforts on other enlightened programmers who understand the benefit and importance of allowing our subscribers – and their viewers – to watch their programming on any screen in their homes.

And so far I have to agree with Time Warner Cable that both content creators, programmers, and cable companies have to become more flexible in delivering content to the increasingly mobile consumer. And so Time Warner Cable dives in the discussion, allowing user to give their opinion on the website and defending their perspective on news shows, as Time Warner Cable President and COO Robert Marcus did on CNBC.

But the most important person in the debate is Jeff Simmerson (follow him on Twitter @JeffTWC) who defends the standpoint and the application by writing witty but honestly about the ongoing debate:

Our iPad app is colossally popular with pretty much everyone except for the management and legal teams at Fox Cable, Viacom, and Discovery networks. Over 300,000 people have downloaded the app to date and watched selected live cable TV channels in their homes using a Wi-Fi connection with no new wires, no new TVs, and no new set-top boxes.


Like I said, television is melting right now. The whole TV industry is sitting on a river that’s flowing fast into the future. Some programmers are kicking the currents with feeble karate and some are getting in a boat and pulling oars along with us for the good of our customers — the people who already paid for all of this and want it really, really badly.


Time Warner Cable Ipad debate

Follow this blog on Twitter @endoftelevision

About the author:

Geert Faber graduated with a Master of Science degree in Business Administration from the Free University in Amsterdam and is currently graduating as a Bachelor of Arts in Media & Culture specializing in New Media and Television studies, writing his graduate thesis about the convergence of new media and television. Beside graduating he works as an E-business and Social Media consultant and blogs for new media conferences.

Find more about me

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