News Corp, Viacom and Discovery issued formal complaints to Time Warner this week, demanding the cable provider remove any of the trio's channels (MTV, FX, Discovery, etc.) from their iPad app, which streams live television to cable subscribers while they're at home. Today, Time Warner caved and removed the channels.
After months of networks and studios going after Hulu and Netflix once they realised people actually like watching TV on the internet, this latest run-in is the icing on the cake. Especially when Time Warner didn't even bother putting up a fight. Seriously, what in the hell is wrong with all these companies?
As much as I dislike networks wanting to remove their shows from Netflix and Hulu, I can kind of see why they fear each service's rise to popularity. Networks haven't figured out how to fully "monetize" on-demand streams, and they concede some of their power over the viewer. Fast disappearing are the days when we watch whatever show is on at 9p on a Wednesday night because there's no better alternative. Networks are losing control the moment in time or the order in which we watch content using these services. It's silly, but at least I can see their motivation.
In the case of Time Warner vs. Fox, the latter's corporate paranoia defies all logic.
First off, the app does not deliver television on demand. It provides live streams of channels that the customer is already paying for as a cable subscriber. And secondly, the nationally-aired ads that air don't magically disappear when the video is streamed to an iPad.
There is virtually NO DIFFERENCE between watching a show on your TV or on the iPad app. Time Warner may lose out on some local ad revenue, but it's not like everyone is going to abandon their television for a tablet.
This general conflict between internet video distributors (Netflix, Hulu, and in this case, Time Warner) and content providers (networks and studios) comes down to two main things: greed (they view tablet streaming as a premium service) and a delusion (envisioning a television future involving coaxial cable and a rigid schedule for programming).
Of course, cable and broadcast television won't die overnight. They'll both be around for years to come. But we can all see where the trend is heading, and the resistance of the television execs is only leaving the door open for someone to come in and smash them.
With Hulu and Netflix already working on original content of their own, and Cablevision working on an iPad app of their own, which will live stream ALL their channels and on demand content (very curious to see how that one goes over), you could argue things are already starting to change. And frankly, I hope this new wave of internet television providers run the old networks into the ground. [NY Times]