Comedy Central App Keeps Key Content Behind the Pay-TV Paywall

By Katherine Noyes It’s no secret that today’s consumers increasingly choose to access content via mobile device, so it was no great surprise to

By Katherine NoyesIt’s no secret that today’s consumers increasingly choose to access content via mobile device, so it was no great surprise to see Comedy Central launch a mobile app of its own this week, long-overdue though it may have been. Sure enough, the app was released on April Fools’ Day and is now available as a free download for iOS 7 devices offering free access to content including the most recent season of “South Park” and next-day availability of Comedy Central’s late-night lineup of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report” and “@midnight.” App users will also be able to preview two yet-to-premiere new series and access original short-form content.Particularly interesting from our perspective, of course, is that a pretty significant amount of Comedy Central’s popular content remains behind a paywall, so it’s available only to users who sign in via their cable or satellite provider. Included in that category are roughly 200 episodes of hit series, stand-up specials and shorts including advance episodes of the new season of “Inside Amy Schumer” — premiering exclusively in the app a week prior to their premiere on Comedy Central — as well as full seasons of “Tosh.0,” “Broad City,” “Workaholics,” “Futurama,” stand-up series and more.

Comedy Central App

Participating pay-TV providers reportedly include Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, Cox, Cablevision, Bright House Networks, Suddenlink and RCN. AXE Peace and Corona Extra are the app’s official launch sponsors.We certainly can’t argue with the economic necessity of retaining key content behind a paywall, since giving it all away for free would come as a blow to parent Viacom’s pay-TV partners, whose subscriptions rely in part on the value provided by Comedy Central programming. This way, the mobile access comes as added value for these partners’ digital subscription offerings — similar in some ways to how The Washington Post recently opened up its digital products free to the subscribers of partner publications. With the fresh exposure the app provides, it may also help partners sign up new subscribers.What’s less clear, however, is why Comedy Central and Isobar — its partner on the app — chose to make it launch in iOS 7-only form. AirPlay support is coming soon, they say — let’s hope they stick to their word on that — but we saw no mention yet of Android, which is a pretty big gap to leave unserved.

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