Watching TV online is nothing new, but watching TV on the iPad feels like a new experience to me. I used to stream the occasional show on my iMac or on my wife's clunky laptop (which runs so hot it doubles as a lap warmer), but the iPad is something else…to borrow Steve Job's favorite word for describing the iPad, watching TV on the iPad feels somewhat "magical". Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would one day be able to walk around my house with a thin, light flat panel TV in my hands watching my favorite TV shows on my own schedule. But that is exactly what I can do with the iPad. The iPad has changed the way I watch TV. Here are my three favorite (and free) iPad TV apps.
ABC Player - ABC is the first major network to the iPad TV party with a fantastic app that has been one of the most downloaded apps on the iPad since its release. ABC recently revealed that over 800,000 people have downloaded the ABC Player app, with those users at least starting to watch 4.2 million shows. Those numbers are pretty impressive considering Apple just announced that 3 million iPads have been sold. That means about 1 in 4 people with an iPad have downloaded the ABC Player app. The ABC Player app makes it easy to view the latest episodes of your favorite ABC shows. Being a huge fan of Modern Family, this was one of the first apps I downloaded when I got my iPad. The ABC Player app allows me to stream the last five episodes of Modern Family for free with limited commercials and the quality is great. DVR? Who needs a DVR?
HGTV To Go - HGTV is one of my wife's favorite networks and one I secretly enjoy watching from time to time myself. I recently downloaded the HGTV app and watched an episode of Selling New York, a show about ridiculously expensive New York properties and the real estate agents who sell them. The amazing thing is I streamed this show without seeing a single commercial. While the variety of content available through the HGTV app is not as deep as the ABC app (there are currently only six shows available compared to thirty six shows on the ABC app), it is still worth downloading if you are a fan of HGTV. The HGTV app will probably never be as content rich as the ABC app because HGTV is a cable network and cable networks get fees from cable companies to carry their programming. If HGTV gave away all their programs for free it would probably ruffle the feathers of the cable companies who pay HGTV to carry their programming.
Yahoo Entertainment - While not really a dedicated TV app, the Yahoo TV Guide within the Yahoo Entertainment app is a wonderful TV guide for those who do not have a built in TV guide on their TV or cable box. Just tell the app where you live and how you watch TV and you get a brilliant TV guide that looks exceptional on the iPad. The TV guide can even be customized to only display what is on your favorite channels. Now if only I could use the app as my remote to change the channel…
Kudos to ABC and HGTV for being the first TV networks on the iPad, and for giving away their content for free. As someone who has worked in the TV industry for over 13 years, I strongly believe the free / advertiser supported model being used by ABC and HGTV is the way to go and the model all TV networks should adopt.
This model works for two reasons. First, by making the app free, more people will download and use it. This means the ads seen within the app are viewed by more people, and you can bet people who own iPads are a very attractive audience to advertisers hoping to sell other products.
Second, TV networks live and die by ratings. The more people who watch their shows, the more they can charge advertisers for ads. It is common practice for TV networks to use a portion of their airtime to promote their programming line up. By creating iPad apps TV networks can easily promote their entire line up thus raising viewership and ratings across multiple shows.
Earlier this week, online TV giant hulu released their highly anticipated iPad / iPhone app. While some have called it the future of television, most have sharply criticized hulu for departing from their free advertiser supported business model. To watch hulu programs on the iPad one must pay $9.99 a month. This would not be such a big deal, but hulu is essentially charging for the same content that is available on other platforms for free and hulu still wants you to watch ads. This has prompted some to accuse the company of being "greedy" and call for a boycott of the hulu mobile app. Some will undoubtedly sign up to enjoy hulu on their ipad, but I do not think hulu will enjoy the same level of success as free advertiser supported TV apps such as the ABC player.
As TV networks see the success of forward thinking ABC and HGTV, more are sure to jump on board with their own iPad TV apps. It is in the TV network's best interest to get their content in front of as many eyes as possible. TV networks have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible on the iPad as they dip their toes in to test the waters. I am hopeful we will see more free TV on the iPad soon.
What TV networks would you like to see on the iPad?