The pioneering road that leads to watching cable programming on an iPad just got a bit bumpier. Cablevision has received notice from Viacom that the cable provider's iPad app, which provides both live TV and video on demand to subscribers, is stepping over the line in terms of the programming it can legitimately stream via the app.
Last week Viacom hit Time Warner Cable with a lawsuit over another iPad app. Time Warner has taken Viacom to court, claiming it has every right to distribute cable programming via iPad as long as it limits the programming to its cable/ISP customers. Earlier this month Time Warner dropped some cable channels from the app in an attempt to please programmers who didn't want content streamed.
In a company statement Viacom said: "Cablevision has seized distribution rights that Viacom has not granted. Viacom grants rights to distribute our content based on specific technologies and devices. We will take the steps necessary to ensure that Cablevision respects our rights."
Meanwhile, Cablevision countered: "Cablevision's agreements with programmers allow us to deliver cable television service to our customers, regardless of how many or what kinds of televisions they have in the home."
Note the key differences in those statements. Viacom thinks it has granted rights to its programming based on a definition of 'television' that means 'box plugged into cable connection'; meanwhile, Cablevision (and Time Warner) are making the case that 'screens are screens' -- regardless of the connection method, if it plays TV programming, an iPad can be just as much a television as a 42" plasma. It may take a long time and a lot of money to sort out (and possibly a linguist to define 'television'). We'll keep our eyes on it and let you know who wins.