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CNN Goes Free In iPad App, Makes iPhone App Free

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CNN, the Time (NYSE: TWX) Warner-owned TV news network, today launched its first iPad app, joining the ranks of other TV news organisations that are going the route of ad-supported and free of charge. At the same time, CNN made its existing iPhone app to free, and added live breaking news video to the international app.

The new iPad app will have three views: broadsheet (pictured); list view with a constantly updated roster of news stories; and slide show, showing all the day’s top stories. Content will incorporate text-based stories as well as video footage and user-generated comments. As yet, there is no option to livestream CNN channels directly through the app.

CNN is coming somewhat late to the party, considering how many TV news brands have already made dedicated iPad apps, including ABC News and BBC News.

Before now, the closest CNN had come to developing an iPad service was optimising its website for the devices, mainly by converting videos from Flash.

When mocoNews caught up with Louis Gump, VP of mobile for CNN, in September, the network may not have had an iPad app, but what it did have was a clear understanding that tablets like the iPad spelled convenience for users: “You are at the airport, you pull it out, and you use it. It’s completely about convenience.”

Yet that convenience, at least where TV news brands like CNN are concerned, won’t be coming at a price. While we are seeing printed magazines and newspapers increasingly looking to treat the iPad as a premium content device, pricing apps well above the $2 marker, TV news brands like CNN are following the free route.

It leads one to think that ultimately it may be easier to charge for an app when the physical product linked to it has a price, whereas content that is already “free” (once you get that cable and satellite package) may be a harder sell, longer term, in the world of apps.

What CNN hopes for, of course, is scale — and a lot of it, so that it can start to have more conversations with those brands that have in the past spent the bulk of their money on television advertising but have never really migrated all that much of it to the web. The fact that the iPad is considered by some as a potential TV substitute helps advance that line of thinking, too.

The first advertiser for the iPad app in the U.S. will be car maker Lexus.

CNN’s iPhone app originally sold for $1.99, and around two million users downloaded it at that price, according to Reuters. The app’s price was eventually lowered to $0.99 to lure in more viewers.