Video services

Comcast Keeps Eye on the iPad Prize

Despite building tensions between MSOs and programmers over iPad apps that deliver live TV channels, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is still moving ahead with a future update that will offer similar features. (See Top Ten Ways the iPad Is Changing Cable , Cablevision Launches iPad App With 280+ Channels and TW Cable's iPad TV App Changes Channels.)

Comcast isn't pinpointing a launch date yet, but the MSO is still committed to launching an app that will stream live TV channels to tablets, including Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPads and some Android-powered devices, "later this year," Comcast spokesman Peter Dobrow says. "That still holds true." (See Comcast to Stream TV to iPads, Android Tablets .)

Comcast was among the first service providers to introduce an iPad app, starting off with a version that turned the tablet into a remote control and video navigation system. It followed in February with a "Play Now" feature that today provides access to more than 3,000 hours of on-demand content, versus about 25,000 that's offered on the MSO's more traditional set-top-based video-on-demand (VoD) platform. (See Press 'Play Now' on the iPad and Comcast Invades the iPad .)

The current app, which has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times since its debut last November, does allow users to access VoD content outside the home. However, usage of the live TV app will be restricted to customer homes.

Still, Comcast may face some programmer resistance with that based on recent history. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) removed some channels from its iPad lineup when it was hit with cease-and-desist letters and the possibility of programmer-led lawsuits. Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) launched its iPad app with a much larger slate of live TV channels (more than 280), but has encountered less of a fight from programmers, though the YES Network, which happens to offer a subscription streaming service for in-market New York Yankees games, claims that the MSO's carriage rights for its network does not extend to tablets.

How live TV streams are delivered to the iPad will also factor in to the fight. Cablevision is leaning on its switched digital video (SDV) platform, but TW Cable, it's understood, is using a central facility to send its IP streams. In both cases, the video is being shipped to customers over the operators' proprietary, managed networks.

Comcast hasn't identified its technical approach or announced how many linear channels it will pipe to IP-connected tablets, but it recently acknowledged putting SDV plans on the back burner. It's also been hard at work developing a video-optimized content delivery network (CDN), but usage for it has been limited to VoD services for digital cable set-top boxes. (See Comcast's 'Project Infinity' Takes Flight and Comcast Back-Burners SDV (Again).)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Carl Davies 12/5/2012 | 5:08:36 PM
re: Comcast Keeps Eye on the iPad Prize It's clear that with 1.5 million downloads of the initial app, there's clearly a crying want and need by subscribers for TV Anywhere. However It's good to see that the Cable MSO's have plenty of next steps up their sleeve's. The next challenge will be to offer the end user real personalization over their content, and purchases. No longer is the relationship between the bill payer and the Cable operator.
Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:08:33 PM
re: Comcast Keeps Eye on the iPad Prize

1.5M is a good number, but not all that  surprising since anything involving the iPad will benefit from the near-term novelty effect. And all of cable's major competitors will be doing this too so we've got a short-term diffentiator quickly turning into competitive table stakes.  It'll also come down to execution.  In Cablevision's case, i like that they are offering the whole smash right away versus a much smaller subset of channels as in the case of TW Cable.  JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:08:28 PM
re: Comcast Keeps Eye on the iPad Prize

Cablevision's off to a nice start, announcing today that it's Optimum App for the iPad breached the 50K download mark, making it #1 in the App Store entertainment category since Sunday, and the 10th most popular free app overall JB


Sign In