Comcast just announced that Xfinity TV customers who subscribe to Showtime will now be able to download Dexter, Homeland, and other Showtime original programs to their Apple and Android tablets or smartphones for offline viewing.
This is the first time a pay TV company is enabling content downloads for offline viewing, which may start a trend that other cable MSOs or satellite TV competitors might follow. Currently, Xfinity TV subscribers can also download content from Starz, Encore, and Movieplex for offline viewing. The cable giant is working on obtaining more mobile rights deals with other content providers, in order to stay ahead of the game when it comes to offering mobile enabled pay TV service.
In addition, A&E announced that they are releasing iPad apps for Lifetime, A&E, and the History Channel that will be accessible to Comcast Xfinity TV customers. All full length shows for signature series such as “Pawn Stars”, “Project Runway”, and “Duck Dynasty” will be available for viewing, though it is unclear if live TV viewing will be enabled through these apps.
Other pay TV providers are scrambling to add more TV Everywhere capabilities to stay competitive. Cox Communications just signed a wide ranging carriage deal with Walt Disney Co., which means that Cox subscribers will be able to add the WatchESPN mobile apps on their smartphone or tablet. By next week, the cable MSO will add WATCH Disney Channel, WATCH Disney XD and WATCH Disney Junior, so its subscribers will be able to watch programming from the upcoming WATCH ABC and WATCH ABC Family apps and websites.
The tricky part is getting the necessary mobile rights to enable TV Everywhere service without raising monthly subscription rates. Broadcasters may be softening their stance a bit about demanding sky high mobile fees in general, since a vibrant pay TV market is necessary for the ratings and ad revenue they need to sustain their networks. At the same time, no one wants to give away content for free, especially since it’s not free to create content.
Perhaps a happy medium will be reached when it comes to TV Everywhere. As it is, content fees are still inching upwards, without regard for the viewer’s ability to pay. But more importantly, at least pay TV customers can now justify their pay TV subscription while waiting in the subway, bus, airplane, or any other place with a limited internet connection.