NBC gets smart, adds full episodes to iPad app

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Back when NBC first debuted its iPad app, we called it a “missed opportunity,” mainly due to the lack of full-length episodes available. But with the fall TV season soon to kick off, the broadcaster has corrected that error, now making all content that had been available on NBC.com also available on the iPad.

The latest update, which was released on Thursday, has all the same features that were available in the first iteration: It features information about NBC shows, schedules, exclusive images, games and some short-form video. The big addition will be full episodes, which will let viewers catch up on all of their favorite NBC shows, like 30 Rock, Community and Parks and Recreation, without a subscription from the iPad.

Ratings, monetization finally catching up

So why make full episodes available on the iPad now? While the update will give some help to NBC’s shows, there are other reasons behind it — for instance, the ability to make some incremental revenues from shows watched on the iPad. That’s because cross-platform ratings are finally becoming a reality, with Nielsen working diligently with content partners to count views that happen online and on mobile devices alongside those that happen on DVR and cable video-on-demand services.

The ability to monetize through ads has also improved. An hour-long episode of The Tonight Show, for instance, had five commercial breaks on the iPad app. It might not be TV-level monetization, but it’s getting there.

What does this mean for Hulu Plus and TV Everywhere?

The launch of another broadcast network iPad app is bad news for Hulu and its Hulu Plus subscription service, which was previously the only way to watch new NBC TV episodes on the iPad. NBC follows ABC, which put full-length shows in its iPad app when the device first launched.

Fox is now the lone broadcaster on Hulu Plus that hasn’t launched its own independent iPad app. Then again, Fox has its own plans for online shows, having instituted a TV Everywhere–type paywall that requires viewers to be cable subscribers in order to access shows the day after they air. That could reduce viewership on Hulu and its own network sites and perhaps drive viewers to pirate its shows.

But Fox won’t be the only network to tie access to cable logins or authentication. ABC is interested in doing so as well, according to comments from Disney CEO Bob Iger during the company’s last earnings call.

While less vocal on the topic, we expect NBC to follow suit. Promoting full-length episodes on its iPad app — and later requiring users to log in to view them, in the same way they log in to the HBO Go or Comcast Xfinity apps — is one way to grow acceptance and adoption of authenticated viewership.

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