Cable Giants Push In-Home Streaming

On consecutive days, two major cable companies stepped up efforts to retain sports viewing customers who may be otherwise tempted to skip out on cable in favor of wireless data packages.

On April 1, Time Warner Cable Television added ESPN and Golf Channel to its iPad television streaming application, while dropping Viacom, Discovery and Fox channels from the mix. Meanwhile, coinciding with a big weekend in sports programming, Cablevision Systems Corp. launched its own iPad television streaming application.

The iPad application is strategic effort by the cable company to reach all viewing screens in a customer’s home, and is expected to emerge as a major test case for the distribution of sports programming to all customer devices in the home.  

Fox, Discovery and Viacom have balked at television streaming applications on the grounds they violate existing programming agreements. For example, Time Warner does not pay a second fee to content providers for the right to deliver programming to customers via the iPad application.  

Time Warner does not see television streaming as double dipping.

On the often hilarious and irreverent Time Warner Cable corporate blog, Time Warner director of digital communications Jeff Simmermon ridiculed content providers who are unwilling to allow television streaming via Wi-Fi. They are programmers kicking against “currents of change with feeble karate,” he said.

Sports programming figures at the center of the streaming television controversy. In fact, customer comments on the Time Warner blog are overwhelmingly centered on sports programming with people lobbying for channels that will give them access to their favorite sports and teams on mobile devices.

One day after the Time Warner’s programming change, Cablevision Systems Corp. launched its iPad television streaming application. Called iO TV, Cablevision’s entry offers 280 live channels, as well as video on demand. Launch of the Cablevision application coincided with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four Championship series of three games, and the opening weekend of Major League Baseball.

In a press release, Cablevision said, “this app provides another screen for you to use in your home and allows you to move around your home while watching all of your favorite shows.”