Cox Communications is the latest operator to take live TV to Apple's popular iPad, with the MSO planning to launch an app next month that will let subscribers watch about 35 channels on their tablets in their homes.
"We'll start with a certain number of national channels, then expand with local and more national networks," said Steve Necessary, vice president of video product development and management for Cox. "The coolness factor is pretty high."
Eventually, the Cox TV Connect app will add such features as DVR management and remote-control functions, which are available in a separate app from the operator today, he said.
Other operators that have launched apps for streaming live TV to tablets in customers' homes include Time Warner Cable, Cablevision Systems, DirecTV and Bright House Networks. Dish Network also offers live TV on apps for iPad and other devices for customers with Slingboxes or "Sling-loaded" DVRs.
Cox invested in an MPEG-2-to-MPEG-4 transcoding infrastructure, based in Atlanta, that prepares the video for streaming to iPads. "It's a multimillion-dollar investment to make this happen, and there's no [direct] revenue associated with it today," Necessary said. "But ultimately this is consistent with the direction to IP video.
The Atlanta-based MSO worked with NDS to develop the iPad app, specifically on the user interface and digital rights management technology. NDS developed Cox's next-generation Trio set-top guide.
Cox already offers online video through its TV Everywhere authenticated service, Cox TV Online, with partners that include Turner Broadcasting System, HBO, ABC, NBC and Epix.
The live TV streaming apps have generated complaints from some programmers that the feature violated current distribution agreements. The cable operators counter that because the apps provide TV to subscribers only in their homes, they're covered under the carriage deals.
Viacom has been the only programmer to take the issue to court, suing both Cablevision and Time Warner Cable for copyright violation and breach of contract. The media company reached an agreement with Cablevision resolving the dispute but has not yet come to terms with Time Warner Cable.