Time Warner Cable launched a pretty cool (and extremely popular) iPad app a couple weeks ago, one which allows TWC cable and internet customers to watch a selection of cable channels in any room in their house, via their iPad.
It took almost no time for television networks to cry foul.
Almost immediately, media giants like Viacom (MTV, VH1, Comedy Central) and Scripps (Food Network, HGTV) claimed the channel streaming was a violation of their contracts with Time Warner, and began threatening legal action.
Time Warner, who says 300,000 customers have downloaded the iPad app, responded to those threats with a public campaign asking "Why do some TV networks want to take it away?" In those ads, TWC also maintains that since their customers have already paid for access to the cable channels, they have a right to watch them over the iPad.
Currently, Time Warner streams about 30 channels to the iPad, but they hope to add more.
According The New York Times, other cable companies say they are also working on streaming apps for their customers, but they will likely wait to see what happens with Time Warner first (NYT also outlines all the nitty gritty details of the dispute).
My take: I don't see the problem with the streaming, which is only available to those already paying for the channels, and only inside their homes. What's the difference between streaming channels to the iPad and watching on a second or third television set in another room? A hardwired cable. That's it. It's not like customers are getting anything extra or free, just another way to watch the content they are already paying for.
UPDATE: Time Warner Cable President/COO Rob Marcus discusses the battle over free streaming television on CNBC -- VIDEO.