How Cablevision Could Deliver Live TV to iPad Outside the Home

By Steve Donohue

While Cablevision subscribers who download its new iPad app can only use it to watch live programming within their homes, the cable MSO could be laying the groundwork to use its extensive WiFi network to deliver live video to subscribers in public areas.

In the last three years, Cablevision has quietly expanded the coverage area for its WiFi hotspots. As this WiFi map shows, Optimum Online subscribers can access WiFi hotspots in thousands of public areas throughout its footprint, including retail stores, train stations, central business districts, parks and beaches.

Using WiFi transmission gear and software from Canada's BelAir Networks, Cablevision also has deals with Comcast and Time Warner Cable that allow subscribers from those MSOs to access its WiFi hotspots. Cablevision customers can access hotspots located in Comcast and Time Warner Cable territories under the WiFi agreements.

Cablevision executives have said the company is testing a new mobile phone product that would rely on a hybrid network of WiFi hotspots and cellular networks that it could lease. The company is also reportedly talking to LightSquared Inc. about using its broadband wireless network to offer mobile services to its customers.

The biggest challenge Cablevision and other pay-TV providers must overcome before they could distribute live programming to subscribers outside of their homes is cutting deals with programmers. Networks have also resisted allowing providers to distribute live video to mobile devices within their own homes--Time Warner Cable was forced last week to drop networks from Viacom, News Corp. and Discovery Communications from its iPad app.

It's likely if Cablevision or other MSOs were to offer live programming to subscribers on the iPad and other mobile devices outside of their homes, the companies would have to craft deals with programmers in which they would charge viewers a premium to access live video.

Comcast spokesman Peter Dobrow said the MSO's Xfinity TV iPad app allows subscribers to view on-demand programming both inside and out of their homes, and that it plans to add the ability for subscribers to watch live TV on the tablets while in their homes later this year.

Cablevision noted in the announcement for its iPad app that its deals with programmers allow it to offer nearly 300 live channels to the iPad since it delivers programming to the devices directly from cable headends, similar to the way it delivers programming to cable set-tops. Spokesman Jim Maiella declined to comment when asked about the potential for cutting deals with programmers to deliver live video to subscribers outside their homes.

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