Fox, Time Warner Cable and the economics of entertainment on the iPad

Apr 1, 2011
Tech

Taking a page from the ailing newspaper industry, News Corp’s Fox Networks group has asked Time Warner Cable (TWC) to discontinue streaming cable channels to the iPads of its pay-TV subscribers. Fox said in a cease-and-desist letter that such use is not authorized. Time Warner temporarily dropped some channels from its subscriber app, although it has […]

Taking a page from the ailing newspaper industry, News Corp’s Fox Networks group has asked Time Warner Cable (TWC) to discontinue streaming cable channels to the iPads of its pay-TV subscribers. Fox said in a cease-and-desist letter that such use is not authorized. Time Warner temporarily dropped some channels from its subscriber app, although it has claimed there’s no difference between a mobile device such as the iPad and a portable TV — especially since the app only works within a customers’ residence.

News Corp. (NWS) and a bevy of other media entities have had varying degrees of success and failure in limiting how their content is viewed. While users would prefer to access stories and shows whenever and wherever they want at virtually no cost, newspapers, TV outlets and all other forms of media are seeking to continue to monetize the delivery of their products just as successfully as they did in old media days. It seems News Corp. is hoping its cable outlets will have the same degree of success in limiting access as its property The Wall Street Journal has done in putting up pay walls online.

Viacom, Scripps and others fight to protect intellectual property

Fox isn’t the only channel owner to protest iPad streaming of its channels – as Viacom (VIA) and Scripps Networks (SSP) have also claimed that the streaming capability is a contract violation. As streaming channels on tablets and mobile devices becomes more popular, cable companies and networks will have to quickly clarify agreements over whether a channel can be provided over devices other than the TV.

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Another issue for TV execs in the fight over streaming cable via the iPad, as pointed out by The New York Times, is measuring the audience on new delivery platforms. Many channel owners have called on Nielsen to begin including iPad streaming in its program ratings.

As companies such as Verizon (VZ) and Comcast (CMCSA) quietly follow in the footsteps of Time Warner Cable in developing streaming apps for iPads and other mobile devices and lawsuits between channels and cable conglomerates stack up, it may be in the hands of television content providers to quickly answer questions of access, cost and consumers’ desires that the rest of old media has been mulling for years.

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