Free CBS and ABC Shows Coming to the iPad


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 (s dis) and CBS (s 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 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 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. (s nwsa) 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)



I think this decision works well for everyone. Not only is it making streaming content available for more people, I believe this news would also cause more people to buy an iPad. If the main cause of rejection of the iPad from consumers is lack of Flash support (like it is for me), knowing that companies are working to make their content available to iPad users could stimulate more people into rushing out and buying them.


I enjoy watching shows on my Macbook Pro via, and just fine. My wife might want an iPad later on for magazines etc due to the interactivity.


They are NOT “free.”

The more accurate and proper term is “Ad Supported Content.” If I give you something but expect something in return, it’s not “free.”

Josh Pigford

Unless access to the content requires payment of some sort (such as buying app or subscribing) then I feel pretty confident that most people would label it “free.”

You’re example is the same as saying it’s not free to drive down the road to a friends house because there’s a billboard…and while they may be somewhat true, the general public doesn’t refer to driving as “Ad Supported Transportation.”


I think you’re mangling what I said with that example. What I am arguing is not like that example at all. When you buy into an ad-supported app, you enter into a contract whereby you agree that the payment for getting access to the app is the viewing of the ads which is non-negotiable. A billboard on the side of the road is not the same situation at all.

The standard industry term for this kind of content is “Ad supported.” I wish you’d use it.

Think of it this way. There are people who actually give away their work for free, and there are free apps in the app store. To call the apps that are add-supported “free” does a great disservice to those people who are nice enough to actually give you things for free. A free item is not “free” because no money changes hands, it is “free” because it is an unencumbered gift to you.

Ad-supported TV or apps are not unencumbered. You aren’t paying with money, but you are “paying” for the use of the app by watching the commercials. It’s a contract that you freely enter into when you download the app or watch the show.

I get that you disagree with this, but the facts don’t change because of that. Free is free. Ad-supported is ad-supported. Those are just the facts.

no name

content providers suddenly giving away free stuff? this is an april fool’s joke or something?

Dipendra Bagchee

It is still strange to me that all of the companies that are jumping on the bandwagon now didn’t start with the iPhone – from a video perspective it mostly just the larger screen that thye would’ve needed to optimize for. The advertising issues are pretty much the same for iPhone and iPad.

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