Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

ESPN Explains How to Watch ESPN on the Web — If You’re Paying for Cable

Two years ago, when the first iPad magazines came out, the concept was novel enough that publishers felt compelled to produce explanatory videos: Here’s how you download the app, here’s how you navigate through the magazine, and so on. Now that seems like overkill.

TV Everywhere apps — the ones that let you watch TV on your iPad, Android phone, etc., as long as you pay your cable bill — should be commonplace now, too. After all, Time Warner and Comcast announced the concept three years ago.

But TV Everywhere has struggled to go mainstream, for a bunch of reasons. So ESPN wants to make sure its viewers know how to use its app — and, just as important, to know the app exists. (Note that this is different from most cable guides to Web video, which usually only surface during fee negotiations, as a way to punish the opposition.)

So. No, it’s not nearly as clever as the New Yorker’s iPad app ad (Jason Schwartzman! Roman Coppola! The 1970s!). More problematically, it glosses over the one real problem that plagues all TV Everywhere apps — the part where you have to “verify” or “authenticate” that you have a cable subscription.

But it’s better than nothing. And it’s probably helpful for both ESPN and its viewers, who really should know about the app, because it’s excellent. I used it to watch many hours of the Euro soccer tournament last month, and a couple quarters of the NBA finals. And I was really glad I had it.

And if the cable guys get their act together, in a couple years we’ll find this sort of thing phonebooth-like quaint, too.


Sidenote: I don’t expect ESPN to make an explanatory video that’s also funny and self-critical in a distant but knowing way, because ESPN stopped doing that stuff sometime in the mid to late 90s (Coke doesn’t make OK Soda anymore, either, and I’m just going to have to get over it). But they could still write at least a couple jokes for Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico, right? No?


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work