Comcast Keeps Eye on the iPad Prize
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