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iPad the new theatre for media war between channels

The iPad, which went on sale a year ago, is becoming the latest battleground in a long-running fight over how TV programmes will be delivered and who will deliver them.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2011 21:21 IST

The iPad, which went on sale a year ago, is becoming the latest battleground in a long-running fight over how TV programmes will be delivered and who will deliver them.

Last week, Time Warner Cable abruptly removed a dozen channels from an iPad app after lawyers for four major content providers — Viacom, Fox Cable Networks, Scripps Networks and Discovery Communications — convened at a Manhattan courthouse to sue the distributor.

Time Warner Cable said in a statement that it believed it had “every right to carry the programming on our iPad app” and said it would consider legal options. The next day, it announced it had added several dozen channels to the app.

Meanwhile, Cablevision also entered the fray, releasing its own iPad app that carries all TV channels the same way a customer’s cable box does. By Sunday afternoon it was ranked No. 1 among all apps in the entertainment section of Apple’s iPad app store.

No immediate legal action was threatened against Cablevision by channel owners. Discovery, for one, did not seem hostile: “We don’t comment on specific affiliate agreements, but we are open to negotiating and we do have deals with distribution partners where similar rights have been recognised,” it said.

Distributors such as Time Warner and Cablevision assert that their existing contracts with channels allow them to turn iPads and other devices into TV sets. But many of the companies that own the channels expect extra payment, saying that streaming their content over iPads constitutes a new distribution channel.

Executives at Viacom and Discovery privately complain that the app is being used to sell broadband subscriptions and gain market share.

Channel owners also complain that iPad viewers are not counted by Nielsen, which prepares TV ratings.