Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WatchESPN app now works for Comcast customers; ESPN denies talks with Apple to bring WatchESPN to the Apple TV; Comcast turns on Skype in Boston & Seattle

The cable sports giant, ESPN, updated its WatchESPN universal iOS app last week to include the fact that Comcast cable customers can now utilize the app.
WatchESPN, which will work on any iOS device, allows cable TV customers to use the app to access live television so long as they are paying customers of Bright House Networks, Time Warner Cable, Verizon Broadband, Verizon FIOS TV – and now Comcast's Xfinity service.

Since I have Comcast service, I have not been able test out the app. After using the app for a while I can see that is far better on the iPhone's small screen than on the iPad's 9.7 inch display – the resolution is just too low. But since the app would be used in a mobile setting I doubt that there would be too many complaints.

In fact, the vast majority of complaints being throw at the app's way involve either a problem with logging in, or that a particular provider has still not signed on (like DirecTV).

One of those cable services, as you can see, is Time Warner Cable. On Monday the head of that service, Glenn Britt, was quoted by the New York Times as saying "“I’m not sure I know what AirPlay is." Britt might be interesting in knowing that the WatchESPN app allows you to stream the content to an Apple TV via AirPlay (whatever that is).


Bloomberg has today updated a story it posted late last night concerning talks between Apple and ESPN about bring the WatchESPN feature to the Apple TV.

The story quotes ESPN executive Sean Bratches as saying that the network would be open to putting its WatchESPN app onto the Apple TV.

“We’re a platform-agnostic content company,” Bratches is quoted as telling Bloomberg. “To the extent that in the future there’s an opportunity with Apple to authenticate through the pay-TV food chain as we’re doing with Microsoft, that’s something that we will participate in.”

But Bloomberg's story has since been updated to include a statement from an ESPN spokesperson, Amy Phillips, that downplays things a bit.

“We’re not having conversations with Apple about authenticating WatchESPN,” Phillips told the website.

No surprise there. Content providers are very careful concerning these deals with companies like Apple. Google and TV set makers. The cable companies and ISP are as popular as lawyers, journalists and politicians, and many viewers, especially young viewers, can visualize a day when cable is no long needed because all content is streamed.

Speaking of cable providers, and Comcast in particular:

Today the cable giant announced that it had switched on a new service, Skype on Xfinity, an HD video calling service. The VOIP service will now be available in Boston and Seattle, with the service introduced in Atlanta, Augusta, Ga., Chicago, Detroit, Harrisburg, Pa., Indianapolis, Miami and Pittsburgh later this week.

"We're continuing to build innovative communication services like Skype on Xfinity that will allow our customers to interact in new ways with the people they care about the most," said Tony Werner, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Comcast Cable. "Through our close collaboration with Skype, we focused on delivering a new product that brings family and friends together through a high-quality video calling experience like never before."

The service will cost Xfinity customers $9.99 a month – plus you must be buying the Xfinity Triple Play bundle.

I am a current Xfinity Triple Play customer and can tell you that I consider my current bill way, way, way too high as it is. Adding Skype, when I can use it free on my computer or mobile devices, seems like another step to debtors prison. But, if money is no object, this service might be perfect for you. But then again, do the rich use Skype?

Here is Comcast's own video for the new service: