Free CBS and ABC Shows Coming to the iPad

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Companies are bending over backwards to get content onto the iPad, whether it’s by changing from Flash to HTML5 as the primary language for rich media content, or by rushing out iPad specific apps. Now ABC and CBS are taking it further still, with both planning to offer free streaming shows designed specifically to work with the platform.

Both companies have different approaches, with CBS aiming to stream content via the iPad’s built-in browser, and ABC looking to provide its streaming content via a dedicated iPad application. The information comes via people briefed on the plans of the two companies speaking to the Wall Street Journal.

CBS plans to have full episodes of Survivor online and ready to stream by Saturday on its CBS.com website. That’d be great news eight years ago, but who still watches that reality fluff? In addition to full episodes of that one show, word is it will also have special previews of other shows like the terrific crime drama “The Mentalist” and popular comedy “How I Met Your Mother.” Despite the significant lack of content for Saturday, Neil Ashe, president of CBS Interactive, did make a statement promising that the iPad will have the same access as computer-based browsers over time.

ABC’s app, on the other hand, will likely have a much larger library available at launch, including shows like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.” The app would stream shows along with advertisements, in the same way ABC.com currently does. It’s a way to avoid iTunes altogether, where sales are slack and Apple is trying to force a 99-cent price point per episode to stimulate the market.

As for the other major networks, NBC already offers streaming content to the iPhone and iPod touch through its mobile website, including full episodes of shows like “30 Rock” and “The Office.” Fox does not, but presumably Rupert Murdoch has some kind of paid solution in the works, since he is trying to wall off all News Corp. content behind pay walls.

Interest in getting content on the iPad is strong, but it represents a monumental effort not just from content providers, but from the advertisers that make that content possible, as well. For years, the de facto format for online video has been Flash, and many advertisers work exclusively in that medium. To then convert existing or prepare new advertisements for the iPad platform, which doesn’t support Flash, will take time and money. The iPad’s success in the coming weeks will reveal whether or not the investment is worth it.

Related iPad Content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d)

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