Six months ago, CBS made us an extraordinary promise: By the fall season, the broadcast network said it would have its full slate of web video content available in HTML5 on the iPad . In a video interview just weeks after the device’s release, CBS Interactive GM Anthony Soohoo told us all clips and full-length episodes available on CBS.com would also be available for viewing on the Apple tablet.
It’s now several weeks into the fall TV season, but that promise hasn’t yet been fulfilled. CBS has a large volume of promotional clips available for its programs on the iPad, but full-length episodes for hit shows like NCIS and The Mentalist are nowhere to be found. So what gives?
CBS declined to comment for this story, but the lack of long-form content on the iPad comes as a disappointment. In part, that’s because CBS’s strategy for the device ran counter to other broadcasters’ plans. ABC released an iPad app for viewing its content, while Fox and NBC have been content to make their videos available only through the Hulu Plus app, which was released in June.
Meanwhile, CBS was moving aggressively to make its videos playable through the iPad’s Safari web browser, which relies on the HTML5 video tag and H.264 video codec for playback. The move was notable in part because tools for tracking, monetizing and securing videos on the iPad at the time were not quite mature.
While advertising and analytics tools for HTML5 video delivery have come a long way in just a few months, content security is still a concern, which is keeping Hulu, Netflix and other online video firms from embracing the web standard for video delivery. It’s unclear whether the content security issue is holding CBS back from wider availability of its videos on the iPad, but digital execs from other networks have noted in the past that HTML5 video streams can easily be captured.
It could be CBS is waiting for more mature HTML5 security tools, or it could be CBS is mulling an iPad app strategy of its own. After all, the company built a TV.com app for the iPhone in the past, and the broadcaster announced today that it’s launching a standalone app for its 60 Minutes news program. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising if apps for other shows were soon to follow.
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