Cablevision iPad Video App Debuts With 280-Plus Channels, VOD

In a move likely to lead to contract disputes with some programmers, Cablevision Systems' free Optimum for iPad app with access to more than 280 live channels as well as video-on-demand became available through Apple's iTunes App Store early Saturday.

The app provides access to channels based on a subscriber's Optimum iO TV package, including local broadcast channels, sports networks and premium programming. Cablevision had expected to launch the app Thursday, but was held up waiting for Apple to approve it for the iTunes App Store.

The MSO said the delay had nothing to do with objections from programmers including Discovery Communications, Fox Cable Networks and Viacom about a similar app from Time Warner Cable -- which resulted in TWC pulling 12 networks from the service.

Cablevision executives have repeatedly asserted that the streaming-video iPad application is covered under existing TV carriage deals because the app limits viewing of live TV and VOD to a subscriber's home, over a home Wi-Fi network.

"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 on iO TV," Cablevision said in the description of Optimum for iPad.

Cablevision's app can be downloaded from iTunes here.

Optimum for iPad provides up to approximately 300 live TV channels and about 2,000 VOD titles. Cablevision expects the full VOD library to be encoded and available by early summer.

"This application allows the iPad to function as a television, delivering the full richness and diversity of our cable television service to a display device in the home," Cablevision chief operating officer Tom Rutledge said in a statement. "It gives our customers the additional flexibility and convenience of watching television throughout the home, in places where set-top boxes might not be ideal or even practical, like the kitchen, bathroom or work room."

Added Rutledge, "This is the future of advanced digital cable televisions served with virtual set-top boxes, and just one of many digital displays we are going to be serving through a variety of applications."

The Optimum for iPad app also lets subscribers browse, search and set DVR recordings from a TV listings guide, as well as browse and view free VOD and on-demand rentals. It also supports closed-captioning and parental controls.

Cablevision plans to deploy additional applications for other tablets and display devices, functioning as televisions, and this summer expects to integrate remote control functionality into the Optimum App for iPad (to let subscribers change the channel on their cable set-top box).

According to Cablevision, not all on-demand assets are available for playback on the app yet. The app also doesn't provide access to pay-per-view, digital music or interactive channels.

The iPad app can be used only through a Cablevision-supplied cable modem. Once the app is installed on the iPad, customers enter their Optimum ID and password to access programming on the device. Up to three iPads can be registered to one account but customers may use only up to two in the home at one time.

In addition, according to the MSO's terms of service, a subscriber must agree to "use the App to display content on a mobile device only within the boundaries of his/her residence, and expressly warrants that he/she will not use the App for any purpose while the Subscriber or the mobile device running the App is physically located outside of his/her residence."

Cablevision noted, however, that Internet access is not required to use the iPad app. Video customers who don't have Optimum Online data service will be eligible to receive a special DOCSIS cable modem that has no Web access so the programming is delivered over the MSO's secure network and then through the customer's Wi-Fi router to an iPad.

Both Cablevision and Time Warner Cable assert that providing live TV through their respective iPad apps is covered under existing carriage agreements, since the tablets simply function as another TV screen in a subscriber's home.

Not all media companies have a problem having their networks available for viewing on iPads. In a statement Friday, Turner Broadcasting System said TWC's app lets customers "watch our live linear networks on a device located within the home, and we, therefore, agreed to allow them to expand the number of networks that they are making available for this application as this is consistent with the agreement we have with Time Warner Cable."

But cable programmers including Discovery, Fox, Viacom and Scripps Networks have complained that delivering their programming to iPads or other tablets is outside the bounds of what is allowed under existing agreements, and would require operators to negotiate explicit rights for such devices.

Cablevision in particular has a history of combative relations with programmers.

In 2006, the operator built a prototype of a network-based digital video recorder service, dubbed the Remote Storage DVR, only to be sued by a coalition of TV programmers, movie studios and other content owners alleging the service violated copyright laws. The MSO prevailed in 2009 after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal of a lower court ruling that Cablevision was within its rights with the RS-DVR.

Cablevision launched RS-DVR, under the service name DVR Plus, to Bronx subscribers on Jan. 18 and no longer offers conventional DVR set-tops to subscribers in that area.