ESPN has extended its authenticated "TV Everywhere" service to Apple's iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices, giving subscribers of Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Verizon FiOS TV access to live feeds of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3.com.
The free WatchESPN App for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch became available Wednesday on Apple's iTunes App Store. A version optimized for the iPad will be available in May.
The content is available over any Internet connection, but only to subscribers of participating ESPN affiliates. With the WatchESPN app, users must enter their TV provider's subscriber credentials to acess the ESPN content.
ESPN is delivering nearly its full programming lineup through the apps but as with the online authenticated website for affiliates' subscribers, ESPNnetworks.com, "some content is subject to substitution" because of restrictions on distribution rights, spokeswoman Amy Phillips said. "At this point we estimate it to be less than 5%."
Upcoming events to be aired on ESPN's networks and available on the Apple devices include the Masters, the NBA playoffs and the beginning of the Major League Baseball season. For now, only customers of Time Warner Cable, Bright House and Verizon FiOS TV who receive the linear networks as part of their video subscription will be able to use the apps.
"Innovation continues to drive ESPN," George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, said in a statement. "When we launched in 1979, nobody envisioned a day when people would carry ESPN in their pockets. But here we are. And we've reached this watershed moment for the industry through tremendous collaboration with forward-thinking partners."
Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems have introduced iPad apps that provide access to live TV -- generating complaints from some cable networks that the usage falls outside the terms of their existing carriage agreements. TWC and Cablevision, however, argue that the apps are covered because they provide access only within a subscriber's home, over a Wi-Fi network.
The company first launched an authenticated version of ESPN in October 2010, with Time Warner Cable and Bright House, then added ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN Buzzer Beater/Goal Line in January. Consumers can access the channels at ESPNnetworks.com.
ESPN said the WatchESPN app will be available on other smartphones and tablets in the near future.