Could iPad be a TV game-changer?

Apple's announcement of the iPad tablet PC was not greeted with the same kind of universal awe that was given to the iPhone or some iPod devices. But, discounting the iPad as something less than an important, possibly game-changing device in the TV sector could be a big mistake.

The iPad's bigger screen could make it a better TV/video viewing device, though its ultimate impact also will depend on how Apple and its partners price content and promote the tablet as a TV viewer. Already, there is movement on price, as Apple reportedly is pressing to make episodes of some TV shows available on iTunes for that magical iTunes price of 99 cents.

That push looks to be only in its early stages, and not everyone is buying in, but TV service providers such as cable TV operators and telcos need to watch closely in the coming months for how broadcasters and other programming companies react to this effort.

While Apple is looking to jump-start its iTunes video download business with lower prices, the content owners are faced with widely varying prospects for the value of their content. Do they follow Apple and its next hot device, the iPad, into a realm where content value declines, but download sales potentially explode? Do they put everything they've got into TV Everywhere-style offerings with cable and telco customers that either maintain or increase the value of their content by making it part of premium subscription packages? Do they pursue both strategies, and if they do, how long will it take consumers to realize which one is better from their own point of view?

TV hasn't been Apple strong suit thus far, but the company still seems to have the attitude that it will try to change the rules of whatever game it chooses to play, no matter the price. Many telecom companies say they want to be more like Apple, but it is clear that they haven't acquired the same philosophy yet. Service providers and broadcasters try to play every game by the same old rules, in which the value of assets should never decline, only increase. But, that type of thinking only works if you are sure none of the players will try to pull the game board out from under everyone else's pieces. -Dan

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