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iPad Video: Netflix, ABC, CBS…and Maybe More On The Way

The iPad hasn’t even reached consumers’ hands yet, and already online video services and broadcast networks seem to be scrambling to make sure they’re present and highly visible on the nascent platform. According to reports in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) and elsewhere, broadcast networks ABC and CBS will be streaming programming to the iPad: CBS will apparently be relying on HTML5-served video that will enable fans to tune into shows like Survivor using the iPad’s built-in Safari Web browser, while ABC will apparently be rolling out it’s own iPad application that will enable users to browse and stream episodes from shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives.

Although all reports are sketchy on details of ABC and CBS’s efforts, both services are apparently eyeing an ad-supported distribution model—which may not make Apple entirely happy, since it’s selling much of the same programming through iTunes at $0.99 an episodes. (However, purchased programs don’t require Internet access to view, and subscribers can keep them as long as they want, unlike online streamed programming that is often only available for a limited time can be pulled down at any moment.)

Reports and screenshots from AppShopper (which is pulling iPad applications screenshots directly from Apple’s App Store database) have video rental service Netflix also preparing an iPad app to launch concurrently with the iPad itself. Netflix subscribers will apparently be able to mange their queues and view streaming content directly on the iPad.
stream online content to the iPad. No pricing information is available, but Netflix traditionally makes access software available to its subscribers at no additional charge.

Online video sharing sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Brightcove, and even Flickr are also preparing to push video to the Flash-free iPad using video presentation capabilities available in the forthcoming HTML 5 standard.

A big question mark in the iPad’s immediate video future is Hulu, the joint venture between Fox, NBC, and ABC that for the last couple of years has been a major player in providing ad-supported American television content via the Internet. Hulu hasn’t publicly commented one way or another on the iPad, but the enterprise has been considering switching to a paid subscription model. Although Hulu has been talking about an iPhone applications since mid-2009, The New York Times has reported that Hulu is working on its own application for the iPad.

Despite all this apparent interest from streaming video providers, it remains to be seen whether the iPad will succeed as a video-viewing platform where mobile phones, portable media players, netbooks, and even notebook computers have failed to gain significant traction. Streaming video services have been available for most of those platforms for some time and have yet to blossom into a major industry—although an ever growing number of American consumers watch TV and surf the Internet at the same time, they haven’t overwhelmingly given up the big screen in the living room for portable devices.

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