Want to Watch TV on Your iPad? Pay Up.

Published on April 6, 2010
by Peter Kafka

In the run-up to the iPad launch, I noted that the TV networks were pretty much sitting this one out: If you want to watch one of their shows for free, you’ll need to do it on something other than Apple’s new gadget.

But just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, I asked the folks at Clicker, the online video guide, to tally up what kinds of video options the iPad offers for now. And I got the same answer: Plenty of full shows if you pay, very little if you don’t.

Netflix app (requires subscription plan starting at $8.99 per month):
10,000 TV episodes
6,000 movies

iTunes (sold via individual downloads):
25,000 TV episodes
3,000 movies
3,000 music videos

Approximately 200 full TV episodes via app. None via Safari browser.

One full TV episode and clips

No full TV episodes. Some broken up into low-quality clips on mobile site.

No full TV episodes.

Cable networks (FX, AMC, USA, etc.):
No full TV episodes

Clicker would also like us to note to that it has access to another 175,000 clips that will work on the iPad, from sources ranging from ESPN to CNN to Next New Networks. Noted! But if you’re waiting to watch complete episodes of programs like “30 Rock” or “The Daily Show” for free on your iPad, you’re going to be disappointed for quite some time.

And to be clear: This is a business development issue for the networks, not a technical one. They certainly know how to convert their videos from Adobe’s (ADBE) Flash standard to the HTML5 standard Apple (AAPL) is championing–they’re just not sure they want to. We’ll get to the internal debates some of the networks are having on this topic down the line.

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