Time Warner Cable has asked the legal system to weigh in on the squabble it is having with Viacom over an app that lets subscribers watch live TV on their iPads.
In a request for declaratory judgment filed Thursday, TWC is hoping a court forces Viacom to allow TWC subscribers to watch several of Viacom’s channels, including Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and CMT, on their iPad devices while in their homes.
TWC launched its iPad app wide on March 16, and it was downloaded 360,000 times, but Viacom, Fox and Discovery quickly told TWC to yank their content from the offering.
TWC obliged, but now it seeks legal guidance as to whether Viacom might be breaching its carriage agreement by demanding TWC allow its subscribers to view Viacom’s channels on traditional TV sets but not on an iPad.
A spokeswoman for TWC did not explain why Thursday’s complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, only addresses Viacom and not Discovery or Fox.
The filing complains that Viacom has threatened TWC with legal action. Those threats, says the document, “ignore the uncontestable fact that the Viacom Affiliation Agreements do not in any way limit the types of video display devices upon which TWC subscribers may view programming provided through TWC’s cable system.”
It’s more than a threat. Viacom filed a complaint in response to TWC’s filing that says: “Viacom has reached reasonable agreements with several emerging and established digital platforms so that they can stream Viacom’s content and also provide outstanding user experience. Viacom has made clear that it is willing to discuss extension of similar rights to others – including TWC. What Viacom cannot do, however, is permit one of its contracting partners, TWC, to unilaterally change the terms of its contractual relationship.”
At the company’s TWCableuntangled.com blog on Thursday, digital director of communications Jeff Simmermon wrote that “this is not a hostile lawsuit.”
“We need an impartial third party to referee the situation and confirm that our interpretation is correct,” he wrote. “Destruction and resolution are two very different things.”
Viacom said in a lengthy statement issued to the press that TWC “blatantly grabbed the rights that their competitors have negotiated in good faith to obtain.”
Viacom also tried to use TWC’s own financial success against it. “With $5.2 billion in cash from operations last year, TWC can certainly afford to provide our programming through this new broadband service without passing along any additional costs to its customers.”
Meanwhile, since TWC took down several channels last month, it has been steadily adding new ones from various providers. Some of the most recent additions to the app include four ESPN channels as well as Oxygen, Lifetime, History International, Biography and ReelzChannel.
Simmermon said that as of Thursday, there were 43 channels available on the iPad app.