Commentary

Video On iPad: Making Way for the Fifth Screen

iPad in a bed

I have been pretty much undecided about the iPad as a real force in media. It has before it the hardest job any new device can face -- carving a new niche in people's media consumption habits. Where exactly the iPad fits among the current collection of smart phone, TV, desktop and laptop screens is a poser. Is there really enough of a gap among these platforms for a fifth screen? So I was skeptical ... until I brought the thing to bed with me.

Yes, there is room in my life for a fifth screen after all. I am sure that many of the half million iPad owners have already discovered that its real killer app is Netflix. If you are a Netflix subscriber then you can use the iPad app to access your "View Instantly" library of recent and catalog film titles that live on the Web. Even better, you can watch your films in synch with the other screens. I started viewing the fashion industry documentary The September Issue through Netflix on my laptop, picked it up where I left off on my HDTV via Netflix on my Xbox 360, and then finished it off in bed on my iPad. Because all of the video streaming occurs in the cloud Netflix can maintain my queue of titles and bookmark my stop and start points across any platform. My understanding is that I will be able to add my iPhone to the Netflix family shortly.

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The screams of joy over this brilliantly seamless video experience can be seen in the iTunes App store where users of the Netflix app rate it an unheard-of 4.5 stars and fill their reviews with a lot of "Holy Cow"s. Yeah, this is what they really paid $500-$700 for.

It almost goes without saying that Hulu is going to kill on this thing when they get around to making an app. The ABC Player app is quite good, as it formats the prime time schedule into a very compelling promotion. According to the Wall Street Journal, ABC's app has been downloaded 205,000 times in the first ten days and viewers watched parts of 650,000 TV episodes. Clorox, Lexus, AT&T and Sears have all run video spots here, and the ad frequency is about five 30-second spots an hour. ABC is planning to allow local affiliates to sell spots as well so that iPad viewers will see geo-located ads.

CBS has created an iPad-specific Web site that parses the programming into more bite-sized morsels, although the site fails at transcoding all of the episodes and back catalog into iPad-ready formats.

But the nets and any video portals that take aim at the iPad and other mobile screens, should note the Netflix experience well. The essence of its magic is not just video on demand from a highly portable TV screen (although that itself is incredibly cool). It really is in the seamlessness and personalization of the experience. That fifth screen becomes all the more attractive when it is personalized and can complement or complete experiences that I also have elsewhere. Stop thinking about how you get your video brand "onto" the iPhone or iPad. Think instead about how you extend your relationship with and knowledge of your viewer onto the next screen.

7 comments about "Video On iPad: Making Way for the Fifth Screen".
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  1. Corey Kronengold from NYIAX, April 15, 2010 at 10:49 a.m.

    I'm hesitant to heap too much praise on the iPad for something that Netflix has done right. While more people might discover the joy of picking up content where you left off with the iPad, some of us Windows fans have been enjoying the same Netflix experience for a while now.

    Start a show or movie on the train on a Windows Mobile device or wifi card in a laptop, then pick it up on the big screen at home w Windows Media Center or Boxee or just through a browser, and watch the end on the netbook that is already on the night stand.

    The iPad is definitely more comfortable in bed than a netbook, though. No complaints about it being a great device for consuming content. If it only knew when you fell asleep and would pick up from that point, then I'd sing the iPad's praises.

  2. Ellen Ambrose from MindBites, April 15, 2010 at 8:55 p.m.

    I like how Netflix is using the cloud to integrate the use of all screens. If anyone is interested in having similar functionality for educational/instructional video on demand through the iPad or iPhone, give me a shout at MindBites. We are on it and close to release.

  3. Dean Collins from Cognation Inc, April 16, 2010 at 9:11 a.m.

    How comfortable is it to hold and type?

    it sounds like the viewing side is ok but is it something you could have a long text chat on http://www.LiveBaseballChat.com while watching a game on?

  4. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, April 16, 2010 at 11:15 a.m.

    I'd be a lot more exciting if Netflix weren't so indifferent to including closed caption information in their streams. It's not just the 30-35 million Americans who are hearing impaired. Think of all the times when having the option to trigger captions would be useful: viewing in noisy environments (on the train, at the gym) or quiet environments (at home in bed, or at work).

    Last year, Netflix's CEO basically said captions weren't important. This year, they say they're are "coming soon." I'm not holding my breath.

  5. Steve Smith from Mediapost, April 16, 2010 at 2:06 p.m.

    @Dean: It is certainly a media consumption device more than an interactive one. Typing is tolerable at best and not anything I would want to do for more than light correspondence. On the other I find so far that there are more patches of pure lean-back consumption in my day than I would have thought. I am tending to spend evenings with it in my lap for Web and news browsing rather than the more obtrusive laptop.

  6. Walter Sabo from HitViews, April 17, 2010 at 5:39 a.m.

    In a strange irony there is a KINDLE app for the iPad

  7. Irving Radovich, June 29, 2010 at 10:57 p.m.

    The best thing about ipad is going to be video and HTML5. Most of the video sites such as youtube and vimeo can be accessed by the iPad, if not, you can solve it with ifunia video converter and I think it'll improve the ultimate viewing experience.

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