Time Warner Cable iPad App Is Just The Tip of the Iceberg

Time Warner Cable iPad App Is Just The Tip of the Iceberg

There’s been a lot of press lately about Time Warner Cable’s foray into portability by offering its subscribers access to their programming via their iPads.

The controversy is that Time Warner apparently didn’t consult the  programmers before launching the new service, according to the New York Times:

“Portability is a different business proposition,” said an executive at one of the major channel owners, suggesting that there should be a premium paid for the ability to take a TV show into bed or into the bathtub. One commercial for Time Warner Cable’s app actually shows a person watching TV on a tablet while taking a bath.

A series of YouTube videos from Time Warner Cable suggests that the iPad app is just the beginning of a grand series of experiments with web services that the company plans on launching.

It’s surprising, therefore, that the programming executives claim to be caught off guard. Do programming executives ever go to the annual Consumer Electronics Show? Don’t they want people in the business of distribution to stay on top of new distribution trends and markets, and to figure out how to stay relevant in the age of cord-cutting?

One complaint noted in the New York Times article is the inability of ratings company Nielsen to keep track of viewers via mobile devices.

The chief issue is counting the audience: another executive said there had been a “stampede” of channel owners asking the Nielsen Company to include iPad streaming in its ratings of programs.

But surely the cable companies can help to fill in the blanks?

I have placed a call to Time Warner Cable, and e-mailed someone I know at the company, but have yet to hear back.

Any insights from readers on why what Time Warner is doing is really controversial appreciated.

  • CharliK

    The cable companies are pissed that they didn’t receive more money for this right and worried about ratings degrading. Which is a joke cause the Ratings have been behind the times for years. Unfortunately the networks don’t get it either so they haven’t pushed to include ad money for online streaming, itunes, amazon etc into the make good so we have decent to great shows cancelled and crap like jersey shore taking its place

  • Joseph

    Your question about why this is controversial is answered in the first paragraph of the NY Times piece. A license agreement prescribes what Time Warner is allowed to do with the content. If it’s not in the license agreement, Time Warner does not have a legal right to do it. And the channel owners apparently do not believe they have granted Time Warner a license to stream their channels to iPads.

    Questions about TV viewing trends and business strategy and what happened at the consumer electronics show are all quite beside the point. Time Warner wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think there was profit in it. And if there is profit in it, the licensors of the channels would be foolish if they did not try to extract some of that profit for themselves via the terms of the license agreement.

  • LaiStirland

    Joseph, it all boils down to semantics and whose side you’re taking in your argument. My question is, if Time Warner’s plans for distribution have been public for a while, why didn’t the channel owners cover their bases and negotiate a percentage of whatever distribution model Time Warner experiments with?

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  • damianragar

    It’s all about money: TV networks feel they should get paid for that kind of service. I guess they still refuse to admit their viewer’s behavior changed over the last decade… Good news for Sling I guess.

  • ZSCHULTZ

    So from what I have researched and seen about this app is that it basically turns your iPad into a TV that you can only use inside your home. I mean that is good but what happens when you want to leave your home? Plus only 32 channels? That is why I am glad that I have and work at DISH Network. With my Sling Adapter hooked up to my 722k and the DISH Remote Access app, I can stream live content over 3g and wifi. The best part is I can do that anywhere in the world. Check out DISH.com for more information on this great app.

  • Peter

    “the channel owners apparently do not believe they have granted Time Warner a license to stream their channels to iPads.”

    Nor did they grant them the right to stream to my brand new 3D Sony Bravia 72″ TV.

    Essentially, they granted them the right to send programming to equipment in my house. That’s what the contracts say. If the iPad is in my house, Time Warner can send content to it just like any other TV.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, the content providers are the ones who believe I should buy 3 CDs if I want to have one in my house, my car, and my office. I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for them.

  • CalicoAvenger

    I’m a TWC customer, and my only complaint is that only one of the available channels (Food Network) is of any interest to me. Wish they would stream NY1. That’s a channel they OWN, so they shouldn’t have any problems with doing that.

  • Joseph

    “Why didn’t the channel owners cover their bases and negotiate a percentage of whatever distribution model Time Warner experiments with?”

    How do you they didn’t? They may have been trying to get a deal all along. Or maybe Time Warner thinks what they are doing is actually covered by the agreement in which case it will boil down to a dispute about the language of the contract.

    Whether Time Warner does or does not in have the right to stream to iPads is a factual question about what the license says. The license agreement would contain very detailed descriptions of what Time Warner is allowed to do with the content. If streaming to iPads doesn’t fall within those descriptions, then Time Warner does not have a license to do what they are doing. That’s why it’s controversial from the perspective of the other party to the contract. And if the content owners are correct, they would be foolish to allow Time Warner to unilaterally broaden the license without paying more.

    And I’m not, to be clear, taking the content owners side. I completely with you that their business models (and no doubt the license contract itself) are outdated. But you asked for insight on why what Time Warner is doing is controversial and I’m explaining it.

  • BrooklynBridges

     I think this app is very nice for Time Warner customers but, I still don’t think it’s better than the DISH Network app.  DISH Network does have the
    best value in the industry and I too work at DISH, but I’m moving out and
    living on my own for the very first time and I just wanted to ensure that I
    would be getting the best value for the least amount of money.  I stumbled across this site http://besttvforme.com/ and it outlined all
    of the major companies from packages to franchise fees and I knew I’d get the
    best value with DISH and still save a ton of money in the process. 

  • Marcy

    Yeah, but the contracts at Dish kill you especially if you rent and have to move and pay the early termination fee if your new landlord won’t allow dish. Contracts suck!

About the author

Sarah Lai Stirland

Sarah Lai Stirland is from the gadget and status-crazed island of Hong Kong, where even sampan drivers enjoy showing off their latest gizmos. Sarah's work has appeared in Congress Daily, National Journal, POLITICO, Portfolio.com, Red Herring, The Village Voice, and Wired.com, among other places. She now lives with her husband, cat and her young gadget-obsessed, button-pushing daughter in San Francisco. Follow Sarah on Twitter at @LaiStirland

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