Changes For The Better


Cable distributors and content providers are trying to figure out how to take advantage of the iPad’s technologically advanced interface and consumer popularity to offer live television content. Already more than 3 million of the 9-inch mini-computers have been sold since it launched in April, and those numbers are expected to further build with the holiday season fast approaching.

As a result, several new cable-based apps have either launched or are in development that could turn the iPad into a portable cable converter to provide more mobility while watching your favorite cable shows and events live.

Last week Verizon Fios TV announced plans to launch an app that will turn the iPad into an extra cable converter in the home, allowing Verizon subscribers to watch live on the device the same cable networks they enjoy on their 60-inch HD sets. The free app, which could be available as early as first quarter 2011, downloads a video mosaic of the most popular programming currently being viewed by authenticated Verizon subscribers. Users would be able to touch one of the images to launch the live feed, according to Verizon officials.

Of course, there’s still the matter of getting the networks to agree to allow Verizon to stream their feeds to the iPad, but the telco is confident it can convince networks that the iPad is an extension of the traditional cable pipe and not a substitute.

Earlier this month Dish Network proclaimed it will launch this fall an iPad app that allows subscribers using the satellite service’s new spiffy, Slingbox-enabled DVR settop box to watch live TV or download recorded programming for no additional charge. Dish subscribers can change channels, browse the program guide, and access other navigation features on TVs connected to compatible receivers through the iPad app.

Sports leagues have already jumped on the iPad live video streaming bandwagon. Subscribers of DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket live game out-of-market package will be able to catch virtually every touchdown on their iPads during the upcoming National Football League season as part of the package’s $50 broadband/mobile premium service.

More than 100,000 baseball fans have already had access to live games and other video content on their iPads after downloading Major League Baseball’s iPad “At Bat” App. Subscribers of the league’s MLB.TV broadband out-of-market package can watch all live games throughout the September pennant races while on the train or at upcoming PTA meetings through the $14.99 app. Even if you don’t have the MLB.TV package, the app allows iPad users to watch one MLB-selected game a day.

With these and other projects in development, the iPad is quickly becoming more than a glorified tablet computer. It could become the first combined television and cable converter to fit in a backpack.