Comcast will offer a demonstration later this afternoon of a new service they plan to roll out in 2011:  live streaming of television content to iPads and Android tablet devices.  The service will only be available to Comcast subscribers, and the specific details of how the service will work have not yet been announced.  The demonstration--by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts--will take place at a Citigroup investors conference.  

At first glance, the service sounds great--get live television programming direct to your tablet device--who could have a problem with that?  Well, the guy who finds out that it's only going to work inside his own home, that's who.  With a range that limited, the everyday uses for this technology diminish.  I suppose you could watch one program on your iPad upstairs in the study while your wife watches Project Runway on the standard television.  And the portability will allow you to wander throughout the house, I guess.

But I tend to think the times I'd want to watch live television on my tablet computer would be when I'm not at home... when I'm out with friends or visiting the home of someone who doesn't have cable... or even while on the road traveling.

It's impossible to know why the service will be confined to the home, mostly because we don't yet know anything about how it will work--no details have been announced about the technology powering the service, and it's possible the distance limitations are simply a matter of capability for now.

There's also no word on what content will be available through this new service, or what content could be blocked.  So in other words... this is a teaser announcement, designed to get us talking about it so that when Comcast is ready to announce more details, they have a built-in audience.  And it worked--as much for what it suggests might be possible in the future as for what it can promise now.

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I'm a Comcast subscriber--by monopoly as much as by choice--and even though I don't have a tablet device, I'm intrigued and excited about this.  Like most people, I just want the content I want to see to be available to me anytime, anywhere, anyhow.  We're still a long way off from that, but services like this from Comcast are each steps in the journey, leading us closer to the video utopia most consumers are hoping for.

  • Ronnie Bincer

    I agree with EscondidoMan... that the fact it is limited to in home use is a non-issue. Just moving us along towards that interactive/internet TV thingy with a small portable device in my own home... I think its cool.

    I wonder if it's range reaches the "dog house"! Now we're talk'n! Biscuits and Oprah while the folks are away ;-) I might even watch a little Nat Geo or the Animal Planet!

  • John

    Translation: Comcast Wants To Turn Your iPad Into A Checkbook.

    TV, iPad, or psychic waves beamed directly to my visual cortex; won't matter to me if it's over the $9.99/mo I pay t NetFlix. I cut the coax 2 years ago and have not looked back.

  • Escondidoman

    The fact that this works only inside the home is not going to be a large hang-up for a lot of people, IMHO. Personally, I can’t see myself watching any kind of TV outside my home, except maybe occasionally at my friends’ homes, and they’ll probably have this kind of interactive TV by the time I get it.

    In any case, an online television services can differentiate itself infinitely from others and from traditional TV, mainly through interactivity. That differentiation adds value to the content being delivered, which translates into profit potential. My own employer,, is an entertainment/video/music distributor based on a social-networking platform. Independent record labels, filmmakers and remote instructors can use it to create fan sites that combine an online store with a semi-private social network.

    I understand why Comcast and other cable companies have hesitated to shift their focus to online -- ad revenues are much smaller, for one thing. But I think the subscriptions will make up for this once Comcast decides to begin charging separately for the online service, so I think that other cable companies will begin to flood into online video now that Comcast has taken a major early step.