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Viacom sues Cablevision over tablet apps

Parent of MTV and Comedy Central tries to stop the cable operator from putting its channels on iPads.

June 24, 2011|Joe Flint

Viacom Inc., the parent of powerful cable networks MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, is now fighting with two big cable operators over putting its content on tablet devices such as Apple's iPad.

Viacom, which is already in a legal battle with Time Warner Cable, on Thursday filed a similar suit against Cablevision Systems Corp. saying the cable company does not have the right to put its channels on the iPad. Both suits were filed in federal court in New York.

Such disputes are becoming common in the media industry. Distributors want to be able to offer their services on new platforms in an effort to fight cord-cutting by consumers, while programmers want to be compensated more if their channels are going onto new platforms.

Time Warner Cable and Cablevision launched their so-called iPad apps this year, and almost immediately several prominent programmers, including Viacom, cried foul. The distributors say their agreements with the programmers give them the rights to exploit new platforms.

Programmers argue that their deals are good only for television and that any other outlet requires renegotiation.

"We have taken this action to protect our valuable content," Viacom said in a statement on its Cablevision suit.

The media company added that efforts to resolve their differences have been "unproductive."

Cablevision fired back, saying its iPad service "falls within our existing cable television licensing agreements with programmers -- including Viacom." New York-based Cablevision has more than 3 million subscribers, primarily in New York City and Long Island.

While Cablevision and Viacom are now in the courts, this week Time Warner Cable and Viacom took a timeout in their legal fight to try to resolve their differences amicably.

They told the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that they had agreed to halt the court case so negotiations can continue without legal proceedings hanging over their heads.

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