Market Watch

US Pay TV Operators Swarm Around the iPad



Verizon has joined Cablevision and Dish Network in announcing an iPad app to offer some form of TV service to their customers. Verizon and Cablevision's apps will, initially at least, be limited to live streaming of linear TV for in-home use over WiFi. By contrast Dish will be leveraging the Sling platform to offering subscribers with the relevant hardware a full place-shifting service, with the ability to watch content stored on the DVR and out of home use.

Dish's HD DVR with SlingBox features will cost around $200 to $400 for existing customers, plus an additional $10 a month, while a standalone SlingBox will cost $180 to $300. The Dish service will also be available for the iPhone, iPod touch and Blackberry in September, with an Android phone app released in October. By contrast Verizon's service is expected in 2011, although a release this year has not been ruled out.

Analysis
This recent flurry of announcements has seen a number of the smaller US pay TV operators using Apple's tablet to extend their reach beyond the TV and add value to their subscriptions at no extra cost. Nowhere is this value-added strategy more obvious than Dish's decision to offer customers the Sling place shifting app for free - purchased as a standalone item for the iPhone it costs $29.99.

However, while this is an important component of a ubiquitous pay TV subscription these deployments should not be confused with the sort of initiative Comcast has dubbed 'TV Everywhere'. The former with their comparatively limited scope focused on in-home linear TV (Verizon, Cablevision) or place-shifting linear TV plus DVRed shows (Dish) require little in the way of additional rights. By contrast TV Everywhere with its online (i.e. centrally served) distribution of TV shows and promise of authentication walls requires new rights to be acquired by the operator. Over the long term any viable attempt at ubiquitous pay TV is likely to require both these elements.

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