As media companies convene in Chicago this week at The Cable Show and discuss how to reach consumers on any device of their choosing, we are showcasing the best ways to access programming from leading cable, satellite TV and streaming media companies today.
Whether you own an iPhone, iPad or Android device, you are tied into your local cable company or choose to subscribe to a national satellite or video streaming service, we have you covered.
Cable TV with no chords attached
Among the traditional cable systems, Comcast, Time Warner and Cox have the widest footprint and reach the most subscribers in the United States. Accordingly, they have the deepest mobile application offerings as well.
Comcast is setting the standard in distributing its vast array of content via mobile applications with XFINITY TV, available as a universal application for iOS devices as well as via an Android application. The app, which like all the ones listed in this article is free to download but requires a subscription to enjoy, provides access to more than 6,000 hours of “Play Now” programs, finger-tip access to On-Demand programming and a cool and intuitive interactive remote control feature. Currently, users who download the app are not able to watch live streamed programing as Comcast sorts out digital rights issues with studios and content owners. Stay tuned.
The TWCable TV iPad app from Time Warner Cable does offer some live streaming, although a lawsuit with Viacom is making universal streaming problematic at this point. Even without access to live streaming, the app is a worthy download for Time Warner cable subscribers. Android owners and as well as small screen iOS devotees, however, are out of luck at this point.
Of smartphones and satellites
At first glance, the mobile app offerings from DirecTV appear pretty pedestrian. The iPhone app and Android app have the basic remote control functions and out-of-the-home DVR scheduling capabilities. Nice capabilities, but really a yawn when compared to its cable cousins.
However, DirecTV does hit paydirt with its Sunday Ticket suite of applications for NFL junkies (now let’s just hope there is a season!). The NFL Sunday Ticket apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices enable DirecTV subscribers who pay the extra few hundred bucks per year to watch any and all NFL game live on the device.
The DISH Remote Access apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices are fully operational in that they allow subscribers to watch live and recorded programming on the go, control DVR settings, and access a comprehensive program guide. Of course, if you have your choice of satellite providers, DirecTV’s NFL relationship and custom programming make it the superior service (even if its basic apps are inferior).
Streaming and dreaming
Triple-digit cable bills and inability to pay for only what you want are causing more and more of us to “cut the chord” with cable and rely on streaming services for home and mobile entertainment. While this approach to life is problematic for sports fans and others who need to watch first-run programming as soon as it is broadcast (Curb Your Enthusiasm premier anyone?), you can definitely save a lot of money.
Netflix is the most comprehensive service, in terms of both its library and presence on mobile devices. The universal iOS app is a worthy extension of any home entertainment system, as is its trusty Android counterpart. A Netflix subscription goes for $7.99 per month.
Hulu, the TV service introduced by the major networks a few weeks back, also carries a $7.99/month subscription. While Hulu Plus works like a charm on iOS devices, we are still waiting for an official Hulu app on Android. Its mobile web presence, at least on a Samsung Galaxy S, is not optimized for entertainment on the go.
Finally, fans of Slingplayer, the pioneer in mobile DVR access, will be pleased to find highly functional apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android. Unlike all of the other apps described above, downloading Slingplayer apps will cost ya $30 per device. While rather pricey for an app download, for road warriors that’s about the cost of two Pay TV movies at most major hotels. Not a bad price to have all that great content at your fingertips.