Time Warner Cable Removes Several Channels from iPad App

2:38 PM PST 03/31/2011 by Paul Bond

Move comes in response to claims that TWC doesn't have the right to let subscribers watch TV shows on the Apple device.

After complaints from some television executives who are insufficiently "enlightened," Time Warner Cable has yanked several channels from its popular but controversial iPad application.

The cabler acknowledged Thursday that it has received cease and desist orders from Fox, Discovery and Viacom that claim TWC hasn't the right to let its subscribers watch TV shows on their iPad screens, even if they are in their own homes a few steps away from the television sets while doing so.

While TWC said it promises to pursue the matter legally, it nevertheless has bowed to the will of "the programmers who don't share our vision," according to a rather demeaning statement issued by the nation's second-largest cable company.

TWC launched its application -- the first to offer live TV on the iPad -- March 16, and it was the top download at iTunes that day. It was so popular, in fact, it crashed, forcing TWC to temporarily cut the number of available channels from 32 to 15. A day later, the missing 17 channels were restored.

On Thursday, though, TWC wasn't specifying how many channels it had pulled from the service due to programmer complaints, nor did it say if more cuts would be forthcoming. Scripps, for example, also has complained, but TWC's website still boasted Thursday that Food Network, owned by Scripps, was on the app.

Before it threw in the towel -- at least temporarily -- TWC was fending off demands from programmers by trying to rally consumers to its side. The effort included an ad campaign touting the app as "more freedom to watch on more screens" and chastising TV networks that "want to take it away."

The terse statement that TWC issued to reporters Thursday is no doubt part of that campaign.

"We have decided to focus our iPad efforts on those 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," the statement read.

TWC also accused the programmers who object to the app of seeking "additional ways to reach into wallets of their own viewers."

Even though TWC's customers can only use the app in and around their own homes on their own Wi-Fi networks, some programmers say their content has been licensed for traditional TV screens only, a claim that presumably could be hashed out in courts.

"We will pursue all of our legal rights against the programmers who don't share our vision," TWC said.

Cablevision has submitted an app to Apple that could put all of a customer's TV channels on their iPads as well. Cablevision refused to say Thursday whether it had received complaints from programmers.

On Friday, TWC said it added 16 national and three local channels to the app, including Disney XD, CSPAN, ESPN News and QVC.

At its TWCableUntangled.com blog, TWC also added another zinger directed toward Fox, Discovery and Viacom.
 
"Instead of rowing down the river of history and into the future, these programmers have chosen to sit on the bank and kick rocks," the blog item reads. It's accompanied by a Youtube clip of Obi-Wan Kenobi fighting Darth Vader, a scene from Star Wars, a Fox film.
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