Is Time Warner the Brett Favre of cable companies?

Enough with the iPad app channel angst, TWC; dare broadcasters to sue!

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In case you’re having trouble keeping up, here’s where we are:

On March 15, Time Warner Cable unveiled an application for Apple’s iPad that allows cable subscribers to watch live-streamed TV shows on their tablet (but only in their homes).

(Also see: Under pressure, Time Warner drops 11 channels from iPad TV app)

Just one day later, Time Warner removed 17 of the 32 channels offered through the iPad app, claiming that the company’s servers couldn’t handle the demand.

Problem solved, Time Warner the next day added the 17 stations back.

Last Thursday, however, Time Warner removed 11 channels from the app following complaints and legal threats from Fox Cable, Viacom and Discovery networks (see link above).

And on Friday, Time Warner added 19 channels to the iPad app in defiance of the potential legal hazards.

That was three whole days ago, though. Who knows how many Time Warner attorneys have weighed in over the weekend about the risk of incurring lawsuits from well-heeled content distributors such as Viacom and Fox.

It’s a bit weird how Time Warner’s uncertainty over whether it has a legal right to stream TV shows to its subscribers is playing out in public. Just last Thursday, Time Warner Director of Digital Communication Jeff Simmermon wrote in a blog post explaining why the company was dropping 11 channels:

Our iPad app is colossally popular with pretty much everyone except for the management and legal teams at Fox Cable, Viacom, and Discovery networks.

Simmermon then quoted a Time Warner statement:

[F]or the time being, we have decided to focus our iPad efforts on those enlightened programmers who understand the benefit and importance of allowing our subscribers – and their viewers – to watch their programming on any screen in their homes.

Translation: We don’t want get sued over this, so we’re going to drop some of these stations and not stick up for our customers.

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