NBCUniversal’s USA Network, the most-watched channel on cable TV, is making original programs such as “Royal Pains” and “Burn Notice” available to subscribers on smartphones and tablets.
The shows can be seen online, on Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad and on other mobile devices using the USA Now app the day after they air on television, Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBCUniversal said today in an e-mailed statement. The company also plans to introduce similar applications for its other entertainment channels.
“It’s finally coming together this year,” Matt Bond, executive vice president of content distribution, said in a phone interview. “We’re beginning to see widespread adoption in the industry and by viewers.”
NBCUniversal is joining competitors in making more of its content available to users on the move, as growth in online video ad sales outpaces those on network TV. Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s HBO channel began streaming shows in 2010, while Walt Disney Co.’s sports channel ESPN offered apps in 2011. In May, Disney introduced an app for its ABC network and 21st Century Fox Inc. plans to offer Fox Now and FX Now apps for the fall TV season.
Episodes watched on the USA Network app during the first three days can contain the same commercials as the version that aired on television, potentially allowing the views to be counted in Nielsen’s ratings, Linda Yaccarino, president of NBCUniversal advertising sales, said in a phone interview.
After the three-day period, NBCUniversal can insert different ads, Yaccarino said. The company is selling sponsorships of the apps, which will be announced in September, closer to the beginning of the new TV season, she said.
“High-quality digital video content continues to be scarce, so to have more of inventory to sell is very positive,” Yaccarino said.
At the outset, the USA Network app will work for subscribers to cable services from Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC), Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC), Mediacom Communications Corp., and Suddenlink Communications. It will also be accessible to customers of DirecTV (DTV) and Dish Network Corp. (DISH) and to users of Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ)’s FiOS fiber-optic TV service.
About half the 99 million U.S. TV households that receive USA Network will be able to use the app initially. All subscribers should be able to access the app during the next 12 months, Bond said.
NBCUniversal’s Syfy channel and Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo are next in line for apps, Bond said. The company will also expand its current online and mobile access for sports and CNBC and MSNBC news channels, he said. NBCUniversal also owns Bravo and Oxygen cable channels.
In addition to on-demand access to the shows, USA Network’s app will provide games related to the programs, interaction with Facebook Inc. (FB) and Twitter Inc. social media outlets and the ability to access extra content during a show’s live airing.
As with HBO and ESPN, NBCUniversal plans to provide its apps for use on video-game consoles and Internet-connected set-top boxes from companies including Roku Inc., Bond said.
“Our objective is to make our apps available wherever our customers are,” Bond said. “We’ll look at all the other opportunities out there.”
Comcast rose 1 percent to $41.15 at the close in New York today. Shares of the Philadelphia-based company have gained 10 percent this year, compared with a 13 percent advance for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
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