As Apple struggles to secure subscription-based TV deals prior to the April 3 debut of the iPad, consumers will still be able to access premium video content on the device (as well as their iPhones) via free applications.
Case in point is the new Meet the Press with David Gregory iPhone app, which distributes long-form video clips of the popular NBC public affairs program. While the app is free to download, it is sponsored exclusively and prominently by The Boeing Company (also a sponsor of the TV show).
Regardless of whether most network shows are eventually sold individually on iTunes for 99-cents or via monthly subscription fees, advertisers are pushing for ways to subsidize the experience for consumers.
"What we are seeing is that deeper engagment can be found with this app takeover concept," said John SanGiovanni, founder and vice president of product design for MTP developer Zumobi. "We are coming at this more from a media angle rather than as a work-for-hire app developer."
In addition to bringing Meet the Press to the iPhone, the Seattle-based developer (a 2006 spinoff of Microsoft) has created apps around several other NBC properties including the Today Show, msnbc.com and Rachel Maddow. Beyond catering to the Peacock Network, Zumobi also developed apps for TLC Network and Season 8 of American Idol (which is no longer available.)
Longer viewing times on the iPad
With three iPad projects currently in development, SanGiovanni said developing television-based apps for the new device will involve more than just creating reruns of iPhone applications.
"Most of our iPhone apps are designed around snack-able content that is more bouncy than sticky," he said. "The iPad is much more about reclining on a couch and consuming media in a different way. The user-interface will be different and designed around longer-session times."
SanGiovanni added that "ergonomic and biomechanical considerations" also need to be taken into account when developing content for the more "thumb-centric" device.
SlingPlayer ready for the iPad
Another way to access television programming immediately on the iPad and bypass download and subscription costs will be with the SlingPlayer Mobile application. A spokesperson for the company confirmed that the $29.99 iPhone app will be available for the iPad. Expect additional interface customizations specific to the iPad in the weeks and months ahead.
In February, the SlingPlayer Mobile app was updated to allow Slingbox customers to download programs to their iPhones with only a 3G connection (the ability to download via wireless Internet has been available since May).
Prior to distributing television programming via mobile applications (including apps for the Android and BlackBerry platforms), the Slingbox device - which allows consumers to remotely view content from their personal video recorders - was primarily compatible with laptops and personal computers.