So you got your brand-spanking new iPad, and you’ve spent the last half hour rotating the screen, importing your media and playing with a few apps. Time to take a break and watch some web video. Problem is, not every site is ready for iPad use. Many are serving videos exclusively in Adobe Flash, a format Apple’s tablet can’t display. So where to turn for news, sports, TV and viral video fun?
No worries, the list of sites that do play videos on the iPad is growing every day. Here’s a quick run-down of some the most popular destinations, complete with a few words about the quality of the video viewing experience. Think of it as your personal guide to watching without having to install a single app.
Note: This list is all about web videos that play back in the iPad’s Safari browser. Many TV networks have chosen to make their videos available through native iPad apps instead. We’ll add a separate guide for iPad video apps soon, and will keep this list updated as more sites enable iPad support.
YouTube, Blip & Co. on the iPad
YouTube redirects iPad users to the touch screen version of its page, which is the same page you get to see on the iPod Touch, iPhone or on many other smart phones. Videos play as tiny stamps, or in full-screen mode. Users can elect to switch to the desktop version of YouTube, but any video featuring an ad (which seems to be most of the popular content nowadays) won’t play. YouTube serves up videos from PBS via HTML5 this way, but the UI looks broken. The verdict: Needs some work.
Blip.tv treats iPad users with a really nice-looking iPad front page, complete with video-friendly dark background, a number of video categories and a list featured videos of the day. Blip’s iPad video player features a clean half page of context info in portrait mode, almost full screen video in landscape mode, plus an option to go truly full screen. There’s currently no way to explore any context, click on any links or search for any video, so it’s not all that useful unless you want to browse Blip’s featured clips. The verdict: Too much eye-candy, not enough features.
Vimeo shows iPad users the same page you get to see on your desktop PC, and videos are playable both in context and full screen. The full-screen resolution looked good on clips we checked out. The verdict: Great overall experience.
Not quite there yet: Dailymotion.com and Veoh.com don’t offer any iPad-ready content yet.
Watching TV shows on the iPad
CBS.com has gone all out for the iPad and optimized its entire site for the device. Users can play clips as well as full episodes. Videos can be played in context or in full screen mode, and the video quality looks pretty crisp, even when watched in full-screen landscape mode. The only thing notably absent from the iPad version of CBS.com is HD video. Full-screen playback made our browser crash once, but that may well be an early iPad software bug. The verdict: Bookmark-worthy.
NBC.com redirects iPad users to its mobile site that features a few, low-res clips. The verdict: Only if you’re desperate.
Not quite there yet: Hulu.com, TV.com, ABC.com, Fox.com and Comedycentral.com (as well as its sites Dailyshow.com and Colbertnation.com) don’t have any web video content for iPad users.
Watching Sports on the iPad
ESPN.com forces users to make a choice between its mobile and its desktop page, without so much of giving a hint of what works better on the iPad. Go for the desktop version, and you’ll be greeted with a bunch of video content that plays back right in the page and looks fairly decent even in full-screen mode. Well, press conferences do anyway. Game scenes look pretty washed out. The verdict: Pretty good, but could use higher-res videos.
NHL.com offers up a bunch of iPad-ready hockey videos, which are integrated nicely into the site. Once again something you probably don’t want to watch in full-screen mode, but the clips look pretty crisp when watched in their original size. The verdict: Quite alright.
Not quite there yet: MLB.com has supposedly optimized its page for the iPad, but videos don’t play yet. Yahoo Sports also doesn’t have anything yet for iPad users.
Watching News on the iPad
CNN.com makes a number of its news clips available on the iPad. Notably absent is any live content, which CNN is serving via Flash and Octoshape’s peer-to-peer client on the desktop. The verdict: Okay, but you’ll go here for the articles.
Reuters.com was featured by Apple as one of its iPad-ready sites, but the site simply seems to serve up its mobile videos, which look pretty crappy in full-screen mode. The verdict: Don’t waste your time.
The New York Times serves up a few videos right on its front page. The integration into the page is nice, but the quality isn’t all that great, and the Times’ video page still requires a Flash player. The verdict: Could be better.
Using directories to find videos for the iPad
Mefeedia’s search page makes it possible to only search for HTML5 videos, which should play on your iPad in most cases. There’s no directory for iPad-compatible web videos yet. The verdict: Pretty useful.
Clicker.com has started to optimize its web video directory for iPad users. However, Clicker’s directory has always been fairly TV-centric, and most of the shows listed are only available to Netflix subscribers who have the iPad app installed. The verdict: Will become more useful as more content becomes available.
Also noteworthy: Related iPad Content from GigaOM Pro (subscription required)