Viacom Inc., the owner of MTV, Comedy Central and other television channels, accused cable TV distributor Cablevision Systems Corp. on Thursday of making its shows available on the iPad without permission.
Viacom is seeking millions of dollars in damages and an injunction to stop Cablevision from distributing an iPad app that lets subscribers watch live channels and get shows on demand. Viacom says the app infringes on its copyrights.
The app, called Optimum, is part of a move by cable, satellite and other TV providers to give paying subscribers the ability to watch programs on a variety of devices. There's no extra charge beyond what subscribers already pay monthly for television service.
Some call the concept "TV Everywhere," although the Optimum app doesn't allow subscribers to view shows over cellphone networks or Wi-Fi hotspots outside their home. It only works in subscribers' own homes using Wi-Fi signals that come through a modem supplied by Cablevision.
The app launched on April 2 and had more than 50,000 downloads within five days. It is available to Cablevision's digital cable subscribers for free.
Viacom said it has had "limited and unproductive" discussions with Cablevision for several months about licensing the app.
"We cannot wait indefinitely while our networks are being distributed without permission," the company said in a statement.
Viacom filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York on Thursday. A day earlier, Viacom and another cable TV distributor Time Warner Cable Inc. agreed to postpone a legal battle over a similar iPad app to try to reach a deal.
Cablevision said its app falls within existing agreements with programmers, including Viacom.
"It is cable television service on the iPad, which functions as a television, and is delivered securely to our customers in the home on Cablevision's own proprietary network," Cablevision said in a statement.
Viacom said in its lawsuit that the delivery system was not secure and could allow for illegal copying and file sharing. Viacom also said Cablevision used the trademarks of Viacom's channel to give subscribers an incorrect impression that it is backing the product.
Viacom said viewing on mobile devices such as the iPad is not yet measured by The Nielsen Co. As a result, Viacom risks losing revenue from advertisers, because ad rates are set based on the number of viewers. If viewers stop watching on television and watch instead on the iPad, Viacom would lose credit for those viewers.