ESPN: Contracts Prevent Us From Being On Time Warner iPad App

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Time Warner Cable received rare praise these past few weeks with the launch of its iPad app. Not familiar with it? It lets Time Warner Cable subscribers view 32 different TV networks on their iPad provided they’re connected to their home (read: Time Warner-provided) Wi-Fi network. (You can’t watch these channels while at the park and connected to 3G, in other words.) As you might expect, several networks have reacted by freaking out, arguing that Time Warner Cable doesn’t have the right to develop such an app and stream their content. It’s madness that we still have to deal with this in 2011, but I’m confident that in the future we’ll look back on these controversies and laugh heartily. “Ha, what simpletons, thinking you should only be allowed to watch video content on a TV. I’m watching the game on my Internet-connected contacts lenses* right now!

One network not available on the app is ESPN. The sports network, which is regularly the top rated network in the country (as if I need to remind you of Monday Night Football’s gigantic ratings this past season), said yesterday that its current contracts won’t allow the network to be on the app.

ESPN needs to be subject to regional blackouts in order to fulfill various contractual obligations. If the network is showing a big Yankees game, viewers in the New York City area won’t be able to view it there. (They’ll have to watch on the YES Network.) Along those lines, at least; I haven’t seen a Yankees game since Wade Boggs was riding on a horse. Substitute your own local team to make the idea work.

ESPN wouldn’t elaborate, wouldn’t say when it expects to work out these contracts, or if it ever will.

*See Michio Kaku’s new book, Physics of the Future.