Friday, June 15, 2012

Disney launches three channel apps for iOS, but you have to be a Comcast customer to access content

Watching television on your tablet or mobile device is becoming far more common as the networks continue to launch apps that support their channels. Normally, however, a network negotiates with several cable providers before deciding to launch their app.

HBO GO and WatchESPN are good examples of this. If a cable provider has not yet agreed the network might go ahead and launch, putting a little extra pressure on the cable company to reach an understand after the app has launched – this happened with WatchESPN which launched without an agreement with Comcast. Later the app was updated to include access for Comcast customers.
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One has to wonder, did Disney swing a deal with Comcast that gave the cable provider an exclusive on its future new apps, even if only for a short time period?

One has to think so because this week Disney launched three new channel apps, WATCH Disney Channel, WATCH Disney XD and WATCH Disney Junior

If so, then that was a pretty creative way of getting Comcast on board, and a tactic other cable providers might employ going forward, assuming they think they have the same pull as Comcast.
Did Disney swing a deal with Comcast that gave the cable provider an exclusive on its future new apps, even if only for a short time period?
One has to assume that eventually other cable customers will be able to use these three new apps – and an Android app should be on the horizon, as well.

Of course, the issue that always comes up when they television channel apps launch is when will the major networks pull the cord on the cable providers and launch without their support? The answer may be never, or at least not soon.

One of the reasons for this is the complex nature of the contracts in place. Another is that the networks have a symbiotic relationship with the cable companies. In some case they are investors in those companies.

But more generally, the networks like the cable system because it is close. Even though there are hundreds of television channels, in reality the offerings are still limited. The networks own, after all, many channels, so those hundreds of channels do not represent hundreds of television companies.
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In a world where anyone can launch a television app, the networks would find themselves in a tough spot. This is one reason why some think Apple will never open up its Apple TV to third party apps.

In an app environment, with no ties to the cable companies, anyone with video content could be a television network – yes, even newspaper and magazine companies.

This may be the future, but it probably isn't the immediate future.

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