The battle to take control of TV 2.0 continues with a new application (iPad link) from Cablevision allowing customers with iPads to view about 300 channels and 2,000 videos on demand from anywhere in the house. I say in the house because you really aren’t supposed to watch outside of your home according to the company's terms of service and you must have a password-protected router, a secure WiFi network and you must not stream Cablevision content via Apple Airplay to other devices. Customers must further agree to use the app for personal, not commercial use and they can register three iPads and use two simultaneously. Support for other devices is said to be coming soon.
Is this App Enough to Reduce Churn?
I asked this past January if pay TV companies including cablecos are suicidal because they were increasing prices at a time when so many people are giving up watching. Furthermore, TMC’s Juliana Kenney recently wrote that she has turned off Cable and we all know others who are doing the same. The question we need to ask is will this app help stem the tide of defections.
TV Apps to Drive Tablet Sales
I am a news junkie – I can’t get enough of it and now I find I can set up my laptop anywhere in the house and watch news on my iPad while I work. For me, this is an invaluable application, making me even happier with my television service. Moreover, users can now watch the news while they shave, brush their teeth, at breakfast, etc. You have to imagine television is now stickier. Moreover, one wonders if iPads and other tablets will be purchased in even larger quantities as they now double as televisions.
Who Was First and What Can We Expect?
Time Warner was first with a tablet app but reports say they have only one-tenth the amount of content that Cablevision provides. That cable company has had to deal with angry content providers – many who feel their content cannot legally be seen on iPads and other devices without an amendment to current broadcast contracts. So basically we can potentially expect Cablevision to get sued or pull channels in the future. The company was sued a few years back over its “DVR in the cloud” strategy where it argued successfully in court that having DVRs in a data center is the equivalent of rolling them out in each subscriber home. The company likely feels that an application running on an iPad is the functional equivalent of a set top box – the same way they feel a DVR in the home is the functional equivalent to a DVR in their offices.
Is Cablevision and the Industry on the Right Track?
Last September I wrote about what Cablevision and by extension, the industry needs to do next and one area of improvement was the company’s iPhone app which was sluggish and didn’t have a great user interface. This new application however is a leap forward allowing you to set up favorite channels, browse content by genre, view on demand content easily – even free programs and more. You can even set your DVR to record programs and see what’s already scheduled for recording. But sadly, you can’t watch any of the stored content on your iPad.
What Else Can it Do?
When you launch the application you are presented with a screen which shows you available on-demand content, live channels and a faded window with the last channel you were watching. You can click on the content playing to bring it into full screen mode or flick through the available channels. You can also use the channel guide to see all the channels available or use the settings button to modify parental controls, DVR settings and more.
Unlike other cable companies you don't even need to have Internet access from Cablevision or any internet to be able to access this service as you can get a special router which will stream your video content via WiFi from within your home.
Room for Improvement
In a few hours of use the video streamed stopped a few times for no apparent reason. Closing and opening the program or changing channels were a few options which fixed the problem. I have suggested that Cablevision’s remote control work over IP and this application would ideally be configured to work with the set top boxes in the home allowing you to quickly move content from the tablet to the television of your choice. Another minor point is that when searching for content, you can press the play button even though a program is not currently playing. This causes the app to sputter and give a series of error messages.
I would like to also suggest a split screen with four windows which can be viewed at once. Moreover, it should be made easy to flick oneof the channels to the set top box of your choice. And of course an iPhone app with similar functionality can't hurt.
Applications which bring the cable television viewing experience onto tablets and other computing devices make cable television that much better. Sure, there are products like Slingbox on the market which are similar and even better because you can use them outside the home – but the benefit of cable television supplied apps is there is no cost associated with giving the service a try.
Obviously content providers would go crazy if Cablevision allowed you to watch television anywhere you went but as a subscriber, why would I want a content provider to tell me where or when I can watch the content I pay for? For example, will the people at the New York Times outlaw its subscribers from bringing the newspaper into the bathroom? Is that their right – or do subscribers have the ability to do what they want with content they pay for? We all know the answer and it seems that content providers are going to have to loosen up their stranglehold or they may face a potential backlash from customers.