As Cable TV News Wars Heat Up, Bloomberg Builds ‘Live TV’ Placement On iPad

Bloomberg may still be battling with Comcast over better placement on its cable systems, but the financial news and information company is looking to claim to another screen for its live television broadcasts: the iPad. The company launched its latest free, ad-supported app in the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iTunes Store after midnight with the goal of developing stronger ties with its audience, especially when they’re not in front of the TV set.

The various financial news outlets, Dow Jones (NSDQ: NWS), Reuters (NYSE: TRI), CNBC (NSDQ: CMCSA), (NSDQ: TST), SeekingAlpha and Bloomberg have been ramping up their respective “multimedia” offerings across the web and mobile for the last few years. Last April, for example, CNBC, the main cable TV attraction in financial services offices, expanded its online video player to include more social media features.

And nearly a year ago, before its parent company NBC Universal became owned by Comcast, CNBC launched its first iPad as a free, ad-backed offering, which it quickly followed with an update of its premium, paid subscription feature app, CNBC Pro.

Bloomberg has also been busy on the app front. Bloomberg Businessweek+ was rolled out 6 months ago and has 77,000 subscribers (it’s available free to print subscribers and costs $2.99 a month to non-print users). About five weeks ago, the free Bloomberg Radio+ entered the iTunes App Store for the first time and has had over 100,000 downloads in that time, the company says.

While Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and HBO all have their authenticated apps, which require a user to be a cable network or MSO subscriber in order to access streaming live and VOD viewing on portable devices, the Bloomberg TV app requires no signing in; all that’s needed to see its live coverage is a wi-fi connection. Users can also save clips for times when the wi-fi is unavailable.

“We think the best screen always wins, so there’s not much of an expectation of users watching the app instead of the TV set when they’re at the office or at home,” said Oke Okaro, GM & Global Head of Mobile for Bloomberg. “Our goal is simple: we’re focused on increasing the amount of time people spend with Bloomberg, no matter if it’s TV, the web or mobile. This app is designed to fill the void when the viewers are away from the TV.”

In addition to letting viewers build a video archive, the app also has text-based breaking news stories as well. “At any given time, viewers can check out the app and see the 10 most important business stories,” Okaro said.. “When you tap on last 24 hours, you’ll see the fifth screen, which has all the business stories from the previous day.”

With all the various apps Bloomberg has, including its smartphone stock data and breaking news app, the company is being selective about its plans to connect its app offerings.

“Look at the Bloomberg radio app and you’ll start to notice a pattern to all of these apps,” he said. “The TV app is the other leg of the stool, so there will be some premium offerings from it down the road, most likely. But all these experiences — the website, the radio, the TV — will be seamlessly connected. It’s not going to be one app, however. People want choices. They choose based on what is convenient. For example, you go to BBW when you want long form journalism. We want people to find that content easily, we don’t want them hunting in one single app, but there are ways that each can complement the other.”

Bloomberg’s deep pockets, thanks to it terminal system, ensure that it will continue to be able to support its massive push to build up its TV network’s production values and satisfy its demand for better placement on Comcast’s system that would put it near similar news channels. But the app is not a hobby and it will be expected to sustain itself. And that will largely mean advertising, not premium content. Among the marketers putting its faith in an attention-getting launch are Credit Suisse and Johnnie Walker Blue.

But while apps are certainly where media outlets are concentrating their energies today, the big question is whether it will translate into more viewers for its cable channel. In other words, stay tuned.