Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

TV Everywhere Isn’t: Why You Can’t Watch Monday Night Football on Your iPhone

The TV Everywhere pitch is straightforward: If you pay for cable TV, you can watch cable TV wherever you want — on your iPad, in your bedroom, on your phone, in the airport, etc.

The reality is a lot more complicated, for a lot of reasons, but the upshot is that right now you can only watch a bit of what’s on cable on devices that aren’t your TV. And if the cable guys are going to convince people not to cut the cord, or to sign up for the cord in the first place, that’s going to have to get better.

One nice counterexample to TV Everywhere’s struggles is ESPN’s great WatchESPN app, which really does let you watch whatever you want, on just about any device, anywhere, live or on demand. That’s particularly useful for ESPN, since there are lots of cases where you can’t be in front of a TV but really do want to watch a game.

But even mighty ESPN can’t quite deliver on the TV Everywhere proposition. At left is what happened to me on Monday, when I wanted to check in on “Monday Night Football” on my phone, from my couch, at the same time we were catching up on “Homeland”* on the biggish screen.

The problem, says ESPN PR, is that Verizon has an exclusive on NFL mobile rights, so ESPN can’t deliver the game to me on my iPhone, even when I’m at home, on a Wi-Fi connection (which is the way that lots of mobile video gets consumed).**

That makes sense in a biz-dev sense, but that’s hard to explain to a sports fan who simply takes ESPN’s pitch at face value and expects to watch what they want, when they want.

And it makes even less sense to anyone who tried to do the same thing I did on Monday night, but used an iPad instead of an iPhone. Because that would have worked just fine — for whatever reason, the iPad isn’t considered a mobile device.

Again, trying to argue that some rights apply to a 9.5-inch screen but not a 3.5-inch screen is the sort of thing that makes sense to lawyers and deal-makers, and no sense at all to normal people.

You know, the people you want to keep paying for cable.

*This says a bit about what has happened to “Homeland” this season. During Season One, there was no way I was doing anything but staying glued to the set. Now I still watch it — and pay CBS for the privilege — but it’s become a one-eye program, and I don’t feel bad about checking email, Twitter, etc., while Carrie and Brody are up to their high jinks.

**This is also likely why NBC and Fox can’t deliver football via their new Dyle mobile service, even though that one relies on broadcast TV rights they should already have completely sewn up.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik