US pay TV operator Time Warner Cable has updated its TWC TV iOS app, allowing subscribers to view live and video-on-demand programming outside of the home via a Wi-Fi connection. The app, which is available for iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone and iPod Touch at no additional cost to current cable subscribers, offers customers access to:
• 1,100 hours of On Demand TV titles from 26 networks
• 11 live TV news, sports and entertainment channels
• Updated TV mini-guide with new filtering and sorting features
• Remote DVR programming and parental controls
• Live-programming from BBC America, belN Sports, Big 10 Network, FearNet and CMC
Time Warner Cable's previous iOS app had generated more than 750,000 unique users and was downloaded 4 million times in December 2012 alone. Although the newly updated app will only be accessible to iOS users in the meantime, Android users can still access the service via their in-home cable modem.
Time Warner Cable's move is the latest instance of paid video and TV services transitioning outside of the home to offer customers multiple mobile viewing options. The launch of the updated app will position Time Warner Cable on an equal footing against rival US operators DirecTV and Comcast in the mobile video space, both of which launched their streaming apps first on iOS and followed by an Android app later. DirecTV and Comcast currently offers both live and on-demand video streaming outside of the home via Wi-Fi and over a cellular 3G or 4G network.
The decision to launch on iOS first is in line with the strategy of many other Western TV companies including CBS and Comcast in the US and the BBC and BSkyB in the UK.
This strategy is indicative of a number of potential factors:
• The view that iOS provides a more simple development environment in which to refine the user experience before launching on the more fragmented Android ecosystem.
• Commercially-minded TV companies may view iOS as providing a more valuable subscriber base than Android.
• Certain pay TV operators may see proportionally more iOS users on their networks than Android.
In the past, restrictive content licensing agreements and uncertain monetization models have provided a major hurdle for mobile video services. Both pay TV and mobile operators struggled with licensing agreements that restrict some program viewing to inside the home and limited premium content availability. Monetization of video apps has also proven a challenge; with users generally showing little willingness to pay a premium for mobile access, operators now clearly see the benefit in bundling mobile access as part of the single broader pay TV subscription. Time Warner does not currently charge for its TWC TV service, functioning instead as a value-add feature for current subscribers.
Time Warner's video service may have added live mobile access, but in limiting this to WiFi connections it has failed to take advantage of the rapid growth in US 4G subscriptions at a time when US operators frequently use the improved mobile video experience as a key selling point for 4G.