iPad Puts Mobile Video In Focus

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Apple’s newly launched iPad was all the rage last week — since its April 3 launch, the company has reportedly sold more than 500,000  of the 9.7-inch-screen gadgets.  Last Thursday, during the Discovery Communications upfront presentation, queen of all media Oprah Winfrey informed hundreds of advertising and cable executives that she now has one of the coveted devices.

As expected, numerous cable networks — including MTV, Discovery Channel and The Weather Channel — wanted in on the hype and announced the creation of iPad apps that would sync their brand up with the popular gadget. Given the results of a recent Horowitz Associates study regarding consumers’ proclivity for watching video via handheld mobile devices, it’s probably a shrewd move.

Before the iPad even hit the stores, nearly one-third of consumers owning mobile devices could watch video on those iPods, cellphones and Play- Station Portable (PSP) devices, and about 14% of those consumers were watching video content each month, according to a recent Horowitz Associatesstudy on the state of cable and digital media. African-American and Hispanic consumers trend slightly higher, with 20% of consumers in each of those segments viewing video programming on handheld devices, according to the study.

While music videos and You Tube content make up the lion’s share of video viewing on portable devices, nearly 10% of all video viewing is of television shows from cable and broadcast networks, according to the Horowitz study.

The iPad, with its larger screen, could accelerate those numbers, providing a more pleasurable experience for consumers than trying to watch MTV’s Jersey Shore on a 6-inch iPod screen.

Disney/ABC’s iPad app already provides free-to-consumer, ad-supported episodes of around 20 ABC series, including Lost and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as full episodes of popular Disney Channel and Disney XD series Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, The Suite Life on Deck and Phineas & Ferb.

That’s above and beyond the hundreds of cable and broadcast network choices available to iPad users via Apple’s iTunes store.

While consumers overwhelmingly still prefer to watch their favorite television shows on the boob tube, the iPad could help drive even more TV fans to watch content on the subway as well as from the sofa.