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Full CBS TV Shows Head to iPhone / iPod Touch

Last week CBS Interactive launched an iPhone / iPod Touch application that streams full episodes to the devices.

In the last few years, both the printed and broadcast media have taken a hit below the belt as users all across the globe flock around monitors to read the latest news and get caught up on missed episodes of The Young and the Restless. As newspaper presses grind to a halt, it's not unlikely that local TV stations may follow suit, as viewers pack up their loyalties and head online in search for news and entertainment. That transitioned audience can now receive the same content via smartphones and portable internet-capable devices, thus media outlets are scrambling to reach that new viewership to accommodate for a changing industry.

CBS, which owns a good chunk of the internet with well-respected sites (and adversaries) such as CNET, ZDNet, Gamespot, TechRepublic and TV.com, released an iPhone / iPod Touch application that streams full television episodes and other clips directly to the portable Apple devices. Now available free on the Apple App Store, the program covers its Interactive branch based on the TV.com website. And for those who are not aware of the CBS portfolio might be in for a nice surprise, as not only does CBS offer full episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Beverly Hills 90210 and MacGyver, but selected episodes from Star Trek: The Original Series.

"CBS Mobile is excited to be on Apple's App Store with our application for TV.com, where TV lives online - and now on iPhone and iPod touch," said Jeff Sellinger, Executive Vice President and General Manager, CBS Mobile. "Fans can now watch their favorite shows, great clips and create custom channels whenever and wherever they want through the iPhone and iPod touch application."

Currently the application features the following CBS-owned "stations": CBS, CW, Showtime, CNET, CBS Sports Mobile, Gamespot, CBS News, ET, CBS Radio, The Insider, and CHOW. The listing of full episodes is small, and outside the shows previously mentioned, viewers can watch CSI: Miami, NCIS, The Young and the Restless, and a few more across the other stations. The application, which can break down the TV listings by channels or by shows via tabs at the bottom, gives users access to over sixty shows. However, fans of Supernatural, Ghost Whisperer, The Big Bang Theory and other popular shows will have to suffice with short clips until CBS coughs up additional full episodes. The application also features a "shake-to-shuffle" gimmick that selects videos at random.

Consumers can also create custom feeds based on TV shows, channels and topics. According to CBS, the personalized feeds proactively recommend content based on user-selected keywords and past viewing history. The application offers an enhanced search feature for instant, relevant search results accessible throughout the application. CMS Mobile developed the application with the help of Veveo and its VTap video "search and personalization" technology.

And while streaming television shows onto mobile devices seems to be the path the industry will ultimately take, its present condition -especially through the TV.com application- isn't without its limitations. The full-length episodes are broken down into six, eight-minute parts, requiring the user to manually choose and load the next part once the current portion ends. Clips are also broken down according to size (at least that's the case with the Star Trek episodes), not by the commercial insertion points, making the episodes feel fragmented rather pausing appropriately and as originally intended. While the buffering process is minimal, the frame rate appears lower than expected although the picture quality is certainly noteworthy for free, streaming video content.

Is this the beginning of a new era? Are the days of sitting around the living room television set a thing of the past? With more consumers slurping up internet-ready portable devices by the day (despite the economic conditions), local television networks may find it difficult to stay afloat in years to come. With online sites such as Hulu and Joost offering high-quality videos of today's television shows, cable companies may even stumble, reduced to serving as broadband providers only.

Additionally, Joost also offers an ad-supported free application for the iPhone and iPod Touch, offering full episodes of Naruto, Paranormal TV and more as well as full-length movies. However, like Joost, CBS Interactive's TV.com application requires a WI-FI or 3G network.