Tablets and Television

The way we watch television is on the cusp of evolving as the tablet computer is converging with subscription television to provide users with more TV and movies on the go.

According to the Wallstreet Journal, at least seven of the ten largest subscription-TV providers in the U.S. are building applications for tablet computers that will offer TV shows and movies to people who are subscribed.

What’s that mean? Subscribers to cable providers like Comcast and AT&T will soon be able to get an iPad app allowing them to watch shows like NCIS or Grey’s Anatomy as they are aired.

The forebears of this convergence are Netflix and Hulu, the latter having just released Hulu Plus, which allows subscribers to stream movies over the Internet onto their iDevices or Android phones.

However, there is a difference between the forbears and the current move made by cable providers. Netflix and Hulu only show cached programs; shows and movies that have already been released. The new shift with cable providers will allow—in some cases and with certain shows—real -time streaming that’s simultaneous to the airing of the program. In most instances, however, the providers will work like Netflix, permitting subscribers to search for and watch certain TV shows on the go.

For example, Comcast is developing an app that would allow existing subscribers to search and view certain TV shows that had already been aired, almost like an on-demand feature. 

Also, Time Warner Cable Inc. is developing an app that would allow subscribers to watch TV shows over Wi-Fi.

According to the Wallstreet Journal, the providers are releasing the new apps to make their subscription-based television more competitive with the burgeoning shift to TV over the Internet, which in many cases is free or inexpensive.

Netflix and Hulu are merging the media from the other end—syncing their products with televisions—in an effort to bite back. For example, Hulu Plus is available on Samsung televisions.

And, of course, Google is stepping into the fray, allowing people to rent movies from the search-engine site. At first, the renting feature will be provided only for the 3.2 million Fios TV subscribers, but it would soon be provided for nonsubscribers too.