Last month, ESPN (s DIS) took a big step in expanding its TV Everywhere capabilities by launching a new app for iPhone users called WatchESPN (s aapl) that allows cable TV subscribers to log in and watch live streams of all their favorite sports programming from multiple ESPN cable networks. Now, ESPN has introduced a new app for Android users (s GOOG) that will allow them to also watch live ESPN shows from their mobile phones.
With the WatchESPN Android app, viewers can watch live streams of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 on their mobile devices. But there’s one catch: to do so, they’ll have to be subscribers of pay TV companies that have signed deals to enable authenticated access on those devices. Right now, the number of participating distributors is limited to just Time Warner Cable, (s TWC) Bright House Networks and Verizon FiOS. (s VZ)
In theory, TV Everywhere will enable cable subscribers to get access to on-demand and live streams of all the cable networks they pay for, as long as they can prove they pay for those networks. However, a number of programmers and distributors are still trying to figure out the rights agreements necessary to enable access to those services. As a result, TV Everywhere adoption has been fairly limited so far.
Even Time Warner, which is leading the charge on TV Everywhere, has had a tough time getting its content authenticated with its distribution partners. Only about half of all cable subscribers who pay for its content now are able to access it online. But it’s hoping to grow that number to 70 percent by the end of the year.
For ESPN fans, the availability of free apps should eventually be a big value add for their cable subscriptions. But until it reaches agreements with more pay TV operators, that opportunity will be limited.