Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The fight over delivering cable to my iPad

I don't have Time Warner service, but this New York Times story about that company's new iPad app—it live-streams TV programming to the tablet to cable subscribers using the device in their home—is interesting. Apparently the TV networks think Time Warner is horning in on their business:
But some channel owners say that companies like Time Warner Cable should be consulting with them more closely before introducing new products. “Portability is a different business proposition,” said an executive at one of the major channel owners, suggesting that there should be a premium paid for the ability to take a TV show into bed or into the bathtub. One commercial for Time Warner Cable’s app actually shows a person watching TV on a tablet while taking a bath.
Portability is a different proposition—if true portability is involved. (By which I mean: I can take my iPad to the cafe down the street and watch CNN on it.) But that's not the Time Warner app. As the Times notes: "The iPad app only works inside the home, and only for customers who receive both television and Internet from the operator."

From a consumer standpoint, then, I don't think there's a significant difference here that should require me to, you know, pay more for cable service. Water comes into my apartment in several places, for different functions: A kitchen sink for washing dishes and providing water for cooking and drinking; the bathroom sink for hand-washing and tooth-brushing; the bathtub for body-cleaning. We also have water flowing into our washing machine.

Yet we don't get charged for the different types of ways the water gets used in our apartment: the water is delivered to us, we pay for it, and we use it as needed. Cable television isn't water, of course, but I don't know why it can't be the same way: Get the entertainment to my house and let me choose how to view it. Don't charge me extra just because I'm watching Comedy Central on my iPad instead of a television.


Andrew said...

Technically, you do get charged slightly differently for how you use the water: by the gas company when you heat it and by the electric company when you freeze it. If the water company could figure out how to deliver some of the added value of those state changes, I'm sure they would. Consumers should probably be mostly worried about cable monopolies if they worry about anything.

Joel said...

Well, sure, but it's not the *water company* adding the value. Let the institutions that add value make the money from doing so. But the institutions that want an extra buck because somebody else has added value? Bad idea.