The cable companies & broadcasters are doing everything they can to resist change and save the existing business model. Even as consumers clamor for a la carte options and more online capabilities, the cable companies keep distorting that vision. The latest move comes from Time Warner cable, who has just released a special iPad app that will allow subscribers to watch live TV on the device.
The Time Warner iPad App
The app currently only has about 32 channels that are accessible, but Time Warner says they'll be rolling out more in the near future. Of course, the app only works on the iPad (and, presumably, the iPad 2), and only works for people who already subscribe to Time Warner cable TV service AND Internet service.
In addition, the app can only be used at home, which sort of takes the zing out of the announcement. Future update plans include the ability for users to use the app on the go via WiFi (but not, apparently, the 3G connection), but there's no timetable for that.
Cable Companies Can't Let Go
Instead of giving consumers what they want, the cable companies keep trying to trick us. Comcast gave us Xfinity, and all the cable companies have followed suit with some measure of online-viewing for customers–but only for customers who already subscribe to a cable television service.
Most consumers I know are trying to access content online because of the freedom it provides in time and space. But if the Time Warner app is only accessible from my home, and only when I'm already subscribing to TWO services… then it's not really saving me any time or money, is it? It's basically just turning my iPad into a 7-inch television screen I can only use in my own house. Wonderful.
Consumers want a la carte. They want on-demand. And they want to pay for the content they view, not for access to channels they never use. Oh, and in a crummy economy, they want to pay less overall too.
For years cable companies have been bundling channels, making a killing by selling us content we never use. And the first forays into online content by cable giants signal no desire at all to actually give the consumers what they want. Instead, it's more of the same. You still have to subscribe to a traditional bundle, throwing away dollars on channels you never use… AND, what content they give you online has some significant limitations.
So you're paying the same amount as before, to get limited access to channels you already have access to on a TV… but only 32 of them.
While I applaud Time Warner for putting out an app, and for giving users a live-TV option on the iPad, the current offering is far too limited for many consumers to find it useful. It sounds kind of dumb, actually.