ESPN will complicate the live TV mobile app environment in launching its own app -- one without TV commercials.
ESPN timed the launch for its app -- to go on iPad and iPhone devices -- for the early rounds of the Masters golf, the NBA basketball playoffs and the start of the baseball season. Initially, ESPN's app will not air TV commercials.
Recently, Time Warner and Cablevision Systems started live TV apps, which include many networks like ESPN.
Time Warner Cable, the U.S's second-largest cable television operator, recently released an iPad application that allows customers to watch live programming on their devices -- as long as they were existing Time Warner Cable cable customers. This live TV app includes TV commercials.
A number of TV network groups, Fox Cable Networks, Discovery and Viacom Time Warner charged that the move illegally took away mobile customers -- not part of their original wired-to-homes distribution agreements. Time Warner argued that it had the right to distribute networks' content to customers in their homes -- with no regard for whether devices were wired or mobile.
Recently, those networks and others got a court order to temporarily stop Time Warner Cable from including several channels on its live TV app. Soon after Time Warner Cable's launch, another cable system operator -- Cablevision Systems -- followed suit.
Time Warner's live app launched with some 30 channels; Cablevision said consumers would have access to 300 channels and video-on-demand programming.
Addressing the specific problems between networks and distributors, George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, has said: "When we launched in 1979, nobody envisioned a day when people would carry ESPN in their pockets. But here we are."