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Cable Technology Feature Article

August 13, 2010

'TV Somewhat Everywhere' Coming to Tablets

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Comcast, Verizon (News - Alert), Time Warner Cable, Dish Network, Cablevision Systems and DirecTV are among the multichannel video entertainment companies planning to offer tablet apps allowing their customers to watch some shows on their tablets, the Wall Street Journal reports. But content rights issues are complex and slowing the effort. 

All of the firms had already been planning to create services allowing their customers to watch some programs on PCs or smartphones. Now those plans will extend to tablet PCs as well. 

But the services might operate only in the subscriber's home, only on Wi-Fi, only on some devices, only for subscribers of a particular video service and feature only partial content. Dish Network's app will require use of a Slingbox, and sometimes an additional recurring monthly fee. 

Content rights issues will in many cases determine what can be viewed, where it can be viewed and how much can be viewed.  Cablevision Systems Corp. will allow people to watch video on iPads and other devices, so long as they are in their homes. 

The reason: Video outside the home "requires different rights structures," Tom Rutledge, Cablevision COO. In some cases existing contracts do not allow the firms to show their licensed video content on the iPad or other mobile devices. 

Comcast (News - Alert) Corp. is testing a free iPad application that allows existing subscribers to search for and watch some TV shows on the go, and plans to release it by the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

Verizon Communications Inc. plans to release an app for renting movies on devices than run Google (News - Alert) Inc.'s Android operating system. Though the initial plan is to allow Verizon video customers the feature, Verizon says it will make the service available on a wider basis, since it is not tied specifically to a multichannel video service subscription. Unlike some of the other efforts, the Verizon effort competes with Blockbuster or Netflix rather than extending TV programming to iPads and other mobile devices. 

DirecTV (News - Alert) says it plans to put video on the iPad this season with National Football League games for an additional $50 on top of its $300 "Sunday Ticket" offering. 

But it isn't planning an imminent launch for broader TV content on the Web or tablets in part because of slow progress in licensing. 

Observers sometimes ask why multichannel video services are the only type of communications service whose typical retail price does not decline over time. Content rights are the answer. 

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi