Time Warner Cable Subsidizes Slingbox. TV Programmers Beware.

Slingbox or Death Star?

To both cable TV distributors and cable TV programmers, the possibility that consumers will finally cut that cord probably sounds like a slashing sound somewhere near their their bottom line.  But at least one big distributor is choosing to adapt.

The New York Times reports that Time Warner Cable, one of the top cable and internet providers in the country, announced yesterday that it would soon be subsidizing the cost of Slingbox, a set-top device that untethers viewers from their home television screen and lets them watch programming from anywhere, including computers, mobile phones, or second homes.

Based on Time Warner’s recent legal battles with Viacom, which owns channels such as MTV and Nickelodeon, Viacom isn’t going to be very happy about getting shot in the foot. Although it’s in television distributors best interest to keep up with consumer demand to watch TV in different locations and on different devices, television programmers think said distributors should shell out extra for the privilege of showing their content on different screens. (In other words, if there’s a revenue opportunity there, the programmers don’t want the distributors to be the only ones cashing in.) Case in point, Viacom was engaged in two lawsuits this year, one with Time Warner Cable and one with Cablevision, over showing their content on iPad apps.

The Time Warner Cable deal allows a rebate for the full $300 cost of the Slingbox device, but only for subscribers that pay for its costlier $99-per-month Wideband Internet service. Too bad the cable companies can’t figure out a way to work out a similar quid pro quo deal with hometown favorite Boxee. But we guess the words “cable bypass” are pretty much a deal-breaker. Time Warner Cable Subsidizes Slingbox. TV Programmers Beware.