(CN) – Viacom sued Cablevision in Federal Court to try to stop the cable TV and broadband provider from streaming Viacom content through an application Cablevision recently launched for the iPad.
Viacom claims that Cablevision’s streaming programs to cable modems and then to iPads is “in violation of its contractual rights that limit Cablevision’s rights to distribute Viacom’s programming to cable television systems.”
Viacom owns several popular video networks, including Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET and MTV, and maintains its own internet sites for streaming their content.
Cablevision launched its iPad app on April 2, allowing subscribers to download programs onto the iPad, including content from 19 channels owned by Viacom.
This puts Cablevision in direct competition with Viacom because the iPad app “interfere[s] with Viacom’s opportunities to license its programming to third-party wireless and broadband providers,” and “its own wireless broadband delivery sites,” according to the complaint in Manhattan Federal Court.
Apple’s iTunes Music Store sells episodes of several Viacom shows and the content provider also has agreements with video streaming services Netflix and Hulu.
Viacom says it raised concerns about Cablevision’s plans in early March, and notified the cable operator that it considered broadband distribution of its programs to portable devices a “material breach of the parties’ agreements and an infringement of Viacom’s intellectual property rights.”
Viacom is also concerned about advertising revenue from its TV channels. Ad revenue is dependent on Nielsen ratings which track the number of viewers of a particular show – and their demographics – and Nielsen cannot measure these attributes if the shows are streamed to an iPad, Viacom says. Allowing Cablevision to continue its iPad app would hurt Viacom’s Nielsen ratings, which would reduce the rates Viacom can charge for its ads.
Viacom says it will not rule out a broadband distribution deal with Cablevision; it says it has reached “reasonable agreements” with other media distributors and that it has “made clear that it is willing to discuss the extension of similar rights to others – including Cablevision.”
Industry observers say Viacom and Time Warner Cable are working on a broadband distribution agreement after Viacom sued Time Warner on similar charges.
Viacom seeks an injunction, costs, and statutory and punitive damages for copyright violations. It wants $2 million for each violation of the Lanham Act, or disgorgement of profits, trebled.
Viacom is represented by Peter Zimroth with Arnold & Porter.