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A few days ago, Ken Rutkowski, with whom I co-host the World Technology Roundup on KenRadio.com, called me on Skype to tell me that his cable company, Time Warner, had a new iPad app, and that he could watch TV on it. Today, the Wall Street Journal points out that the television networks are not happy about that.
Personally, I don't see what all the ruckus is about because in my mind the iPad, is another monitor, and for years a cable box has been able to connect to a monitor, just as easy as it could connect to a "TV" set. But to understand the programmers plight, you have to understand the contentious and often bitter battles that go on, over money between them and the cable operators, known as the MSOs (Multiple System Operators) like Time Warner, Comcast, Charter, Cox and Cablevision. They used to have a lot of the same parents. Guys like the late Bill Daniels, John Malone, Sumner Redstone, Ted Turner all made billions of dollars playing deal maker between the networks and the cable systems. Want a network on a system, no problem. They would all take a piece of the action on both sides, and eventually end up owning it all, or selling it off. And always for a huge profit. Invest in programming, sure. Those with the cash supported studios, took interest in sports programming networks and carried the games because cable was access to the viewers, and if you controlled the pipes, you controlled access.
With the fast moving technology world outpacing the legal profession, it's become a track meet to catch up for lawyers and judges. Time-Warner has found a loophole in their carriage agreements and is exploiting it. The programmers contend that iPads are not included, but likely they're not excluded. Likely, the cable guys lost a battle to stop content from being sold over Netflix or iTunes, but the programmers want to have their cake and be able to eat it to. While the telcos market and deliver dumb pipe (DSL and T1s) the cable operators deliver pipe that can be either retarted, normal or pure genius (broadband, fiber) where they can manage it, often based on Docsis 1.0, 2.0 or now 3.0. The fatter the pipe the more it can do. Eventually, the data pipe will be the delivery medium for content, the same way that naked DSL or T1s are used for calling over telco lines via Skype or VoIP.
This is all about whose is bigger. It will be a fight until concessions are made. It's much like the GoogleVoice app battle with Apple of last year. A bargaining chip. Time Warner and the cable operators want something, so do the programmers. The iPad is way to make the case more popular. At the end of the day contengt will find it's way to them, and Androids. They hype, well, it's all just that.