Battle time, Cablevision debuts free TV iPad app

By Cory Bergman 

When Time Warner Cable released its iPad app earlier this year, it sparked legal threats. But get ready, Cablevision has just rolled out an iPad app that streams dramatically more live and on-demand TV programming — essentially everything you can get on your TV set, for free.

“Optimum Live TV for iPad” (iTunes) can stream up to 300 live TV channels as well as 2,000 or so VOD clips. It also powers your Cablevision DVR.

Shortly after the launch of the Time Warner Cable app, several channels disappeared from the service after a rash of behind-the-scenes legal threats over the fundamental question: who owns tablet distribution rights? Cablevision says that’s an easy answer.

“Content is not delivered over the internet,” says the Cablevision press release. “The application turns the iPad into an additional television, enabling Cablevision customers to view the same live programming and VOD content already being delivered to other TVs in the home as part of the service they have paid for. Cablevision has the right to distribute programming over its cable system to iPads configured in this way under its existing distribution agreements with programming providers.”

Like TWC, Cablevision’s app only works over WiFi. But in a new twist, subscribers without broadband access can also use the new app with the addition of a Cablevision modem (that can’t access the internet).

More than just another device, the battle over iPad content rights is really a battle over the “second screen.” If you can use an app to watch and control TV anywhere in the house, you’re more likely to use that app as you watch programming on your TV set. And from an advertising perspective, second screens will be ripe for new revenue.