Report: NBC Universal & Time Warner Refuse to Adapt Video Content for iPad

| News

NBC Universal and Time Warner have decided not to adapt their extensive media libraries into a format viewable on Apple’s iPad, according to a report from the New York Post. Citing unspecified sources, the newspaper said the two media companies feel like Flash dominates the Internet for video content, and that the effort to reach the iPad wasn’t worth it.

The Post’s story is a rather gleeful account that pitches the decision by two companies, NBC Universal and Time Warner, as Big Media thumbing its nose at Apple and Steve Jobs.

To wit, the reporter wrote, “Though the iPad has been a huge hit, media companies are feeling emboldened in their rebuffing of Apple by the launch of rival touch-screen tablet devices, such as the ones coming from Dell Computer and Hewlett-Packard, sources said. […] Jobs banned Flash software from running on Apple devices, arguing that the world’s most popular video software is unfit for his devices.”

Though the debate on Apple’s battle against Flash rages far and wide, Mr. Jobs actually argued that Flash was unfit for mobile devices as a class, not just Apple’s iPhone and iPad platform.

We would also point out that while both NBC Universal and Time Warner are among the largest media companies on the planet, many of the other largest media companies on the planet have readily and quickly embraced Apple’s iPad. Disney, CNN, CBS, Vimeo, YouTube, and various parts of the News Corp empire have either launched iPad-friendly sites or plans to do so. That would suggest “Big Media” is split.

Nonetheless, either company would have been a coup for Apple had they embraced the iPad, and both companies remaining in the Flash camp will be great propaganda for anti-iPad, pro-Flash adherents.

In the end, however, it isn’t likely to mean much. If Apple sells enough iPads and those owners watch enough video, Big Media will eventually be forced to make its content available to the users. If the device fizzles, or if Big Media doesn’t think it’s losing eyeballs to the device, they’ll stick with Flash.



Are these the same huge companies that refused to distribute any of their content digitally until about a year ago as well? Because if they are, we can see how good THEY are at predicting the future of media distribution wink


How dumb they still dont get it


I don’t fully understand how this works.

Lots of my favorite NBC shows, such as 30 Rock and Heroes (okay, former favorite shows in the latter case) can be streamed via Netflix to the iPad already. I guess, in those cases, it’s Netflix that’s doing that conversion?


Who cares, their libraries will be in the content of numerous other sites that will gladly re format it to the ipad & iphone.  In the mean time let them lose the money & maybe their shirts, it might wake them up and bring them down a peg or two.

Lee Dronick

Is not NBC the network with the lowest ratings?


Is not NBC the network with the lowest ratings?

Yes. And the fact that they don’t want more people to see their shows by having HTML5+H.264 compatibility just shows that you can expect them to do just as poorly next TV season as they have done this season.


I was trying to remember the last NBC show I watched regularly. Time Warner is a bit more of an issue though.

What is really silly though is the impression they try to give that it’s HTML5-Apple or Flash-everyone else. It’s not like Dell and HP are going to make products that cannot view HTML5. Going with HTML5 et al will give them access to Apple products AND all the rest.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Maybe they are tired of being told what to do. Also, maybe their content partners require a DRM solution. HTML5 and H.264 don’t offer solutions there.

Dean Lewis

The New York Post? Sounds typical of their writing and an attempt at pulling in article hits. I won’t be clicking through. When they discover that Adobe doesn’t have Flash working properly on any mobile device they might want to stream their content to, NBC and Time-Warner will consider alternatives. They’ll have to if they’re going to keep up with the way things are heading: NetFlix expects the DVD service to peak in 2013 and then streaming to take over, especially with devices like TVs and BluRay players including Netflix and other streaming (subscription) capability already. NetFlix does not now and many others will not in the future rely on Flash for this. They’ll use in-house stuff or something ubiquitous and open that anyone might have (HTML5 or something else by then…).

Get on the train, folks, or get left behind. Adobe wants to argue rather than make its product work right, so time to chug on ahead.


After looking at the iPad’s enormously successful international introduction and its continued runaway success in this country, Time Warner and NBC, notwithstanding its special relationship with Microsoft, may want reconsider any decision not to fully support the iPhone OS.  After all, it is better to be required to adopt open standards and new cutting edge technologies to develop for the iPhone OS and forgo having to pay royalties to Adobe, than having to explain to investors and your boards loss market share, declining revenues, and loss profits, especially when the costs of converting to the new technologies mandated by Section 3.3.1 is for these companies less than a rounding error’s rounding error.

Do you see how Apple’s international customers are going iPad crazy.  That’s some iPhad!!!

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo, could you explain the “pay royalties to Adobe” part? Curious.


Adobe charges to use its tools.  This is actually quite clever.  Adobe provides Flash for free, but you must pay to use the tools to develop for it or, at least, Adobe reserves the right to charge a royalty for using its tools.  Now, because of Apple’s moves to place Adobe under tremendous competitive pressure with open standards, I imagine that Adobe hasn’t been able to charge what it would like for the use of its tools, though it has reserved in its licensing agreements the right to charge as much as it likes for the use of its tools.  But developers primarily have Apple to thank for restraining Adobe’s greed, though other competitive forces, such a Microsoft’s Silverlight, have contributed to restraining Adobe.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo, will export Flash if you are opposed to paying Adobe “royalties”. BTW, there is nothing terribly clever in a business sense about publishing a complete specification (as Adobe does with Flash and PDF) and selling tools that adhere to that standard.

H.264, on the other hand, is only royalty free through 2015. You might be paying MPEG-LA for every YouTube video you upload after that date.


Bosco:  Don’t be disingenuous.  You know that you can’t develop a Flash or AIR app in OpenOffice. 

And by clever, I didn’t mean that Adobe had done anything new.  I meant that the specification is the bait to lock the developer into a lifetime of dependence on Adobe tools, which must be periodically upgraded with a new upgrade payment for new tools, which may or may not provide anything worth the new payment.

H.264 will charge a royalty, but I think that the rest of Section 3.3.1’s standards don’t.  And if some one comes up with an open-source competitor to H.264 that is a quality, efficient codec and that doesn’t have IP infringement problems, I am pretty sure that Apple would support it.  But right now the open-source alternatives to H.264 either aren’t very good or they risks being subject to suits for infringement or both.  So Apple can’t risk building tools to compete with Flash on a foundation that performs poorly or that is illicit, so H.264 it is.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo, I find it odd that you call me disingenuous. With, you can “develop” very nice slide shows, then export them to Flash, much the same as you can with Keynote ‘08. You’re not going to make Space Invaders with either of them, but you can build very nice interactive slideshows and presentations that are simple to export to Flash and deploy to the web.

I did not know we were talking about AIR here, which is a development tool that converts Flash source to self-contained application. I don’t quite see how that fits into your narrative.


Bosco:  In your earlier comment, you did not qualify your statement about OpenOffice to restrict it to presentations rather than the kind of apps typically found in the App Store or Android’s MarketPlace.  Given that the context of all of our discussions here have been about apps and not presentations, that strikes me as disingenuous.

AIR is simply as example of the collection of ancillary tools for Flash that Adobe uses to extract as much money as possible from developers, those who employ them, and eventually the end customer, who buys the app, uses the service, or buys the content.

Bosco, I now have to go.  But there isn’t much dispute that Flash has been a cash cow for Adobe, one which Apple’s recent moves threaten by providing developers with tools that are at least as good and, I think, better alternatives.


Eventually the user base for iPads will be large enough they won’t be able to ignore it.  And if they do, too bad for them.  I wouldn’t shed a single tear if NBC went belly-up.  Their management is crap, and their content is even worse.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo, I didn’t think I had to qualify it. I figured we all knew what we were talking about with Flash tools and the Flash ecosystem.

It is funny that you continue to rail against a format and tools that actually lower the cost of delivering interactive content and make development more accessible to creatives. And that’s exactly why Apple felt it had to ban Flash from its iPhone/iPad ecosystem. Even after paying Adobe for a license to use its software (which Nemo thinks is some kind of strange new business model), it’s cheaper to use Flash/AIR to make great apps for iPhone than to use Apple’s crappy, low-level tools.

If it weren’t cheaper, Apple wouldn’t feel any pressure. If it weren’t considerably cheaper, Apple wouldn’t have to resort to Draconian means and start wars.

Bryan Chaffin

Is not NBC the network with the lowest ratings?

NBC Universal is much, much bigger than just NBC the network.


I can see both sides of the argument above and sit in both camps of Nemo and Bosco. I find myself more than leaning in the direction of Nemo on this one.
I have used Adobe products from the beginning. I however, have really started to dislike Adobe products lately which seem to have become less and less stable on OS X. Flash in a Mac browser (Firefox, Safari, etc) is a complete joke. I continually get the old Flash error in the browser of your choice asking if you would like to stop the application loading or continue because it’s not responding.

I find myself wondering what Adobe is up to and why they haven’t taken the initiative in developing some great CSS tools? I use Dreamweaver everyday and used to use Flash everyday but now I find myself coding CSS instead of using Flash. It loads quicker and just looks better. No plugin required.

Adobe should be ramping up the CSS tools in Dreamweaver or very soon I won’t even be using it anymore.

Nicolas diPierro

“the newspaper said the two media companies feel like Flash dominates the Internet for video content, and that the effort to reach the iPad wasn?t worth it”

but these same companies will bend over backwards to distribute their music content on other losing platforms, even though iTunes dominates the internet for music.

make up your minds. either you like choice or you don’t.


Now that they’ve gotten off the fence and made their decision, let them live with the fact that in 60 days, 2 million iPads have been sold. At a million a month, that is a lot of customers they’re choosing to ignore. But then again, NBC has been good at ignoring customers. I have one show on the network I watch now, and it used to be that nearly 80% of my viewing used to be on NBC.

They went from Nothing But Cosby to Nothing But Crap.


Nemo, you can download the flex framwork which includes the compiler for free:

At which point you can use whatever coding tooling you feel like to write your app (using flex and mxml or straight AS3 if you want) and output to a swf, swc, or air app. I use textmate for example. Some use flashDevelop which is free. Heck some guys even built extras for xcode to output swf’s. Adobe even has a c/c++ converter in the Lab called alchemy:

“It is funny that you continue to rail against a format and tools that actually lower the cost of delivering interactive content and make development more accessible to creatives.”

Not one dime given to adobe in that scenario- zero, zip, nada. Not sure how you get lower than that.


I guess this means that NBC Universal and Time Warner have decided that they don’t want to be on mobile devices for anyone other than developers because until Flash is available as part of the general release on any other mobile device (and I mean a real version of Flash, not some Flash lite that barely runs any real content), mobile users (who are quickly becoming a consuming public on iPads) will just find other sources for their online streaming content.

Considering the quality of their current programming, I guess that it works in NBC’s favor that noone can watch the crap that they currently have available.

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