Time Warner Cable Drops Fox, Viacom From App Amid Dispute

Time Warner Cable Inc. is dropping channels from News Corp.’s Fox Networks, Viacom Inc. and Discovery Communications Inc. from its iPad application after the cable networks complained that such use isn’t authorized.

Time Warner Cable, the second-largest U.S. cable-TV carrier, will focus on other channels for now and “pursue all of our legal rights against the programmers who don’t share our vision,” according to a statement from the company today.

Fox sent a cease-and-desist letter to Time Warner Cable yesterday, demanding the New York-based company stop streaming its programming on Apple Inc.’s iPad. Networks have criticized Time Warner Cable for using their programming in a format not specifically authorized in contracts, some of which were signed before the invention of tablet computers.

“We know our customers are going to continue to enjoy the application with the programming that is available, and we’re going to work really hard to make sure that eventually that includes everything,” Alex Dudley, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable, said in a telephone interview.

Time Warner Cable, the first cable provider to release an iPad app that streams live TV, has argued that there should be no contractual difference between an iPad and a television, because its app can only be used inside the home. Fox News is the only Fox station that will remain on the app, Dudley said.

‘Lack of Communication’

A total of 12 networks will be pulled from the application. Viacom’s BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike TV and VH1 will be removed, as well as Fox’s FX and National Geographic and Discovery’s Animal Planet, TLC and Discovery Channel.

“This is disappointing for Time Warner Cable because several key, long-term programming partners have voiced a fundamental disagreement over the use of apps to distribute programming,” said Paul Sweeney, senior media analyst at Bloomberg Industries. “The app very well may be an option going forward. I think what happened here was a lack of communication.”

More than 300,000 people have downloaded the app since its March 15 debut, according to a dedicated website Time Warner Cable started this week.

Time Warner Cable will provide replacement channels “perhaps as early as tomorrow,” according to an updated statement on the website. No update to the app will be needed to view the new stations. There are currently 20 stations remaining on the application, including AMC, Bravo, CNN and USA.

Fox Networks declined to comment, said Scott Grogin, a spokesman in Los Angeles. Discovery declined to comment, Michelle Russo, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. A spokeswoman for Viacom didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

Time Warner Cable fell 9 cents to $71.34 on the New York Stock Exchange and has increased 8 percent this year.

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