Less than two months after it first made live video streams of its cable channels available on mobile devices, ESPN’s popular live video app, WatchESPN, is now optimized for iPad viewing. The latest release of the app brings a bigger screen resolution and clearer video to sports fans that have the Apple (s AAPL) tablet and also happen to be subscribers of select cable systems.
The WatchESPN (s dis) iPad app, like the iPhone app and the Android (s goog) app released before it, lets users watch live video streams from the programmer’s stable of sports networks. That includes access to cable channels ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, as well as its ESPN3 broadband video service, all in one place.
The catch is that the live streams are only available to subscribers of a couple of pay TV services right now. Time Warner Cable, (s TWC) Verizon FiOS (s VZ) and Brighthouse Networks subscribers that get ESPN as part of their cable packages will have access to the app, but everyone else will have to wait until their providers strike a new deal with the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
The release comes as cable programmers and pay TV operators are racing to make their content available on the iPad and other mobile devices. Time Warner Cable (s TWC) and Cablevision (s CVC) both released iPad apps that allow subscribers to watch live cable streams in their homes earlier this year.
But some programmers were unhappy with those apps, in part because they want to control how their content is viewed online and on connected devices. Apps like ESPN’s, which make live video streams of its channels to cable subscribers, is one way for cable networks to control distribution and their brand, by providing additional value to consumers outside the home.