ABC LogoABC was the first U.S. TV network to release an app specifically designed for the Apple iPad. And its eagerness to support the device is paying dividends, with iPad users lapping up the free content.

How long until the other networks follow suit?

Apple iPad

Apple released the iPad on April 3, a few months after unveiling the long-gestating tablet device to the world. Apple claims to have sold 500,000 iPads in its first week on sale, meaning the international release has been put back by a whole month.

The iPad is somewhere between an oversized iPod Touch and a tablet computer, depending on who you believe. But the truth is that Apple has created a new form factor which could revolutionize the world, with online video part of that revolution.

ABC Player App

The ABC Player app for the iPad is available for free from the iTunes App Store. It was created in just five weeks after Steve Jobs first unveiled the iPad.

According to the WSJ, ABC Player was downloaded by 205,000 people during the first week, meaning almost half of all iPad users had chosen it as one of their first free apps. This meant that 650,000 shows were watched using the app.

With 30-second ads on all content, and advertisers including Clorox, Lexus, AT&T, Heineken, Sears, and Target, ABC has already generated millions of ad impressions. Meaning the iPad has so far been very worthwhile for ABC.

New Opportunities

The ABC Player strongly suggests that there’s an opportunity here for the U.S. networks (and TV companies around the world) to make money from the iPad while offering their shows for free. Which can only help stop, or at least slow down, piracy.

A Netflix app is already available, and a Hulu app is highly likely (though it may end up being subscription-based).

NBC and CBS have already stated they are working on iPad-optimized versions of their Web sites. But a free, advertising-supported app looks to be the way to go, at least if ABC’s experience is a sign of things to come.

Conclusions

I had my doubts about how the iPad would do once in the wild. But any fears have now been allayed. If early sales figures are anything to go by then the iPad will be a huge success. And online video has a new medium on which to flourish.

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