Time Warner Cable Files Request For Declaratory Judgment

Not long after Time Warner Cable announced an app for the iPad that would enable consumers to play back live TV as well as play DVR'd television, the cable provider felt pressure to cut certain networks from its lineup. It did so in April, and has been working to add new channels ever since. Although the new offerings are certainly a step in the right direction, many users (as well as Time Warner Cable itself) want some of the old channels back.

Now, Time Warner Cable is hoping the courts will help the company get what it wants. Time Warner Cable is seeking a declaratory judgment that will allow the company to deliver the programming from Viacom cable networks for viewing on devices of its video customers’ choosing, including iPads.

Although Time Warner Cable says this is not a hostile lawsuit and appears to want to keep things civil, we still expect plenty of strong arguments to come from various network owners. Here's hoping Time Warner Cable gets the "dignified resolution" it is seeking.

We Filed A Request For Declaratory Judgment With Viacom This Afternoon

Last week, we pulled a number of channels from our iPad app. The Internet – not exactly a haven for measured discourse or patience for complex ideas – lit up with verbiage more commonly found in war movies and interviews with professional wrestlers.

Ultimately, we are very confident in our rights to distribute our programmers’ feeds over our cable distribution infrastructure to any digital device within our customer’s home. And some of our programming partners have taken the position that our interpretation is wrong.

We are confident enough in our interpretation of our rights that we are willing to take the matter to court. We’ve issued a release to that effect today – please see below:

Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) today announced that it has filed a request for declaratory judgment relating to Viacom cable networks. The request asks the court to rule that Time Warner Cable’s rights under its carriage agreement allows it to deliver the programming of this company over its cable systems for viewing on devices of its video customers’ choosing, including iPads, in their homes. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Time Warner Cable said, “We have steadfastly maintained that we have the rights to allow our customers to view this programming in their homes, over our cable systems, without artificial limits on the screens they can use to do so, and we are asking the court to confirm our view. With over 360,000 downloads of our TWCableTV™ app, it is clear that our customers welcome the convenience and flexibility our new app provides.”

The app, which launched to customers on March 15, 2011, currently features 43 channels which are available to customers whose subscriptions include them. For a list of the channels currently available and updates on the app, please visit www.twcableuntangled.com, the company’s blog.

To be completely clear: this is not a hostile lawsuit. It’s a request for a declaratory judgment.

We’re at an impasse with a handful of network owners, and we need an impartial third party to referee the situation and confirm that our interpretation is correct. We thought the most efficient way to settle this would be to go before a judge and ask for a decision that, while noncombative, would establish the rights that we bargained for.

If we weren’t completely certain that we had the rights to distribute television to our customers’ iPads within their homes, we wouldn’t be asking for the court’s attention. Of course we want our customers to know about this, but we also want to make sure that everyone understands that this is not combat. Destruction and resolution are two very different things, something that gets overlooked a lot in public these days.

We’re moving towards an efficient and hopefully dignified resolution. And once we get there, we’ll let you know.