This means you don’t have to own a Kindle Fire to watch Amazon Instant Video movies and TV shows on a tablet — or use Netflix or the iTunes Store to watch studio fare on an iPad. Amazon says that its new app enables iPad users to buy or rent more than 120,000 movies and TV episodes. They’ll have to make the transactions separately, though. (Remember that Apple collects about 30% from the transactions on its platform.) But people who pay $79 a year to become Amazon Prime members can access more than 20,000 titles without an additional charge. The new app will handle Amazon’s Whispersync, so people who stop a video in the middle on one device can turn to another device and pick up where they left off.
UPDATE, 1:49 PM: Here’s Cablevision’s response to Viacom’s action today: “Cablevision’s agreements with programmers allow us to deliver cable television service to our customers, regardless of how many or what kinds of televisions they have in the home. Programmers are paid based on how many homes we securely connect to their content, not how many televisions display it, so they have never questioned whether a customer has a single TV or a dozen 50-inch flat panels in the home –- it’s all cable television. Optimum App for iPad simply turns the iPad into another television in the home, and one it is worth noting our customers are finding particularly enjoyable and easy to use.”
PREVIOUS, 12:49 PM: Cablevision last week quietly unveiled its own iPad app to rival one from Time Warner Cable, whose app has gotten plenty of notice because it took down a bunch of channels after companies like Viacom, Fox, Scripps and Discovery Communications filed cease-and-desist letters, arguing that the cabler doesn’t have the proper licenses to stream content for its subscribers on other platforms besides TVs. On Thursday, that spat continued: Time Warner Cable filed a suit in New York seeking a declaratory judgment to affirm rights to Viacom’s channels, and Viacom countered with a suit alleging breach of contract among other things.
But the Wall Street Journal reports today that Viacom has complained about Cablevision’s Optimum app, which streams all of the cabler’s content to its subscribers’ iPads. (So far, Optimum had only gotten guff from the regional YES Network — not a surprise, given their history with Cablevision’s former MSG Network in New York — and Major League Baseball.) “Cablevision has seized distribution rights that Viacom has not granted,” Viacom told the WSJ today. “We will take the steps necessary to ensure that Cablevision respects our rights.”
A day after Time Warner Cable took down 12 channels from its new TWCableTV iPad app following outcry from News Corp, Viacom and Discovery Communications, the company said it has added 17 more, including ones from Disney (ABC Family, Disney XD, ESPN among them) and NBCUniversal (USA, MSNBC, Syfy). The newcomers obviously don’t have as much of a problem with the core issue behind the app-flap: letting Time Warner Cable put channel content on two platforms, which News Corp was strongly against and sent a cease-and-desist letter saying so, citing that tablets weren’t included in existing programming agreements. The cable company’s blog that is following the developments said even more iPad channels were on the way despite the defecting programmers, who “have chosen to sit on the bank and kick rocks.”
The cease-and-desist letters have piled up high enough for Time Warner Cable to pull a bunch of major networks from its recently released iPad app, which allowed subscribers of the nation’s second-largest cable company to stream programming inside their homes. News Corp, which sent its letter yesterday, has been pulled from the service, as have all channels from Viacom and Discovery Communications — a total of 12 channels. From Time Warner Cable’s statement today:
We believe we have every right to carry the programming on our iPad app. But, for 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. In the meantime, we will pursue all of our legal rights against the programmers who don’t share our vision.
Networks have been critical from the get-go about the TWCCableTV app, the first to stream live content, saying the tablet platform isn’t accounted for or authorized in current contracts with the cabler. In other words, networks want to be compensated for their content on each screen it’s played on. The app debuted March 15, and more than 300,000 people have downloaded it, according to Bloomberg.