Cablevision System (NYSE:CVC)
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A live TV iPad app that Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC) planned to launch by the end of March has been delayed as a similar app recently unveiled by Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) has exposed a dispute over content rights between cable companies and their network partners.
Time Warner Cable's app provides its cable TV and broadband customers access to 32 live cable TV channels -- like the Disney Channel, Discovery Channel and Comedy Central -- on their Apple Inc. (AAPL) tablet device in their home. Cablevision's planned app would expand on that, providing customers access to all programming that is available through their cable box on their iPad.
The apps have raised hackles from programmers, who claim the cable companies haven't acquired the rights to distribute their content on the iPad. Time Warner Cable confirms it has received a cease and desist letter from News Corp.'s (NWS, NWSA) Fox TV networks, as well as other programmers. News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal as well as Dow Jones Newswires.
In addition, Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. (SNI) has publicly objected to the app, while Viacom Inc. (VIA) and Discovery Communications Inc. (DISCA) have raised objections privately, according to people familiar with the matter.
It wasn't known how long Cablevision's delay would last.
"We have launched our Optimum App for iPad on Cablevision's campus and in approximately 100 employee homes, and it works wonderfully," said a spokesman for Cablevision. "The application has been submitted to Apple and, upon its approval, will be available to our cable television customers."
The spokesman declined to comment further on the matter. Apple representatives were unavailable for comment.
For its part, Time Warner Cable has persevered with its app, despite the objections from programmers and some initial technical glitches. A spokesman for the company said it will continue offering all 32 channels on the app.
Network owners see opportunities for more compensation in their affiliate deals with cable companies for distribution rights on new media devices, like tablets, and they're also concerned that the apps could damage their advertising business because efforts to measure audiences on such devices have been slow to come to fruition.
Cable companies have argued that their affiliate contracts give them rights for distributing programming on any screen within their customers' homes on their broadband network.
At a recent investor conference, Cablevision Chief Operating Officer Tom Rutledge said "the device isn't the definition of the content -- the location is the definition of the content."
On Friday, Cablevision plans to launch its Optimum Link product, which costs $4.95 per month. The company has said it will allow broadband Internet and video customers to watch online content from their personal computer on their television. The company first announced plans for the service early last year, calling it the "PC to TV Media Relay," but it has been slow to emerge.
-By Nat Worden, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2472; email@example.com