It's been less than 2 weeks since Time Warner Cable announced its iPad app, but the fur has been flying ever since. In the WSJ's latest coverage today, it details how TWC is continuing to insist that its contracts with cable networks give it the right to stream their linear channels to iPads in subscribers' homes. Conversely, multiple network groups, including Scripps, Viacom and Discovery have disagreed, leading to an increasingly public internecine industry fight.
All of this couldn't come at a worse time for the industry as the stakes grow higher each passing day for the industry to serve its subscribers more flexibly and through multiple devices. No doubt there's a very interesting back-story to how TWC did or did not approach its cable network partners to get on board with the iPad app, what the networks' specific objections were, how TWC was addressing them, etc.
But all of that is completely irrelevant to consumers who simply want the best TV experience possible and at the most attractive price. Regardless of the validity of cable networks' position, as I tried to explain last week in "Will Cable Networks Kill Their Golden Goose?" these networks need to be ultra-careful of not acting against their own interests. Sure, they should be protecting their rights and revenue streams, but they need to be figuring out how to support their best customers' efforts to stay competitive, rather than trying to stymie them.
As other pay-TV operators see the Pandora's box of trouble TWC's iPad app has opened up, no doubt they'll be that much more reluctant to experiment themselves with iPad apps or other devices. That's bad news for the whole pay-TV ecosystem, cable networks included.
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