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NBCUniversal's USA Network, the most-watched channel on cable TV, is making original programs such as "Royal Pains" and "Burn Notice" available to subscribers on smartphones and tablets.
The shows can be seen online, on Apple's iPad and on other mobile devices the day after they air on television, Comcast's NBCUniversal said Wednesday in an emailed statement. The company also plans to introduce similar applications for its other entertainment channels.
"It's finally coming together this year," Matt Bond, executive vice president of content distribution, said in a phone interview. "We're beginning to see widespread adoption in the industry and by viewers."
NBCUniversal is joining competitors in making more of its content available to users on the move, as growth in online video ad sales outpaces those on network TV. Time Warner Inc.'s HBO channel began streaming shows in 2010, while Walt Disney Co.'s sports channel ESPN offered apps in 2011. In May, Disney introduced an app for its ABC network and 21st Century Fox Inc. plans to offer apps for Fox Now and FX Now for the fall TV season.
Episodes watched on the USA Network app during the first three days will contain the same commercials as the version that aired on television, allowing the programs to be counted in researcher Nielsen's ratings, Linda Yaccarino, president of NBCUniversal advertising sales, said.
NBCUniversal will then insert ads from different sponsors, Yaccarino said. The company is also selling sponsorships of the apps, which will be announced in September, closer to the beginning of the new TV season, she said.
"High-quality digital video content continues to be scarce, so to have more of inventory to sell is very positive," Yaccarino said.
At the outset, the USA Network app will work for subscribers to cable services from Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp., Mediacom Communications Corp. and Suddenlink Communications. It will also be accessible to customers of DirecTV and Dish Network Corp. and to users of Verizon Communications Inc.'s FiOS fiber-optic TV service.
About half the 99 million U.S. TV households that receive USA Network will be able to use the app initially. All subscribers should be able to access the app during the next 12 months, Bond said.
NBCUniversal plans to make similar applications available for its Syfy channel and Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo. The network also will expand its current online and mobile access for its sports and news channels, including CNBC and MSNBC, Bond said. NBCUniversal also owns the Bravo and Oxygen cable channels.
As with HBO and ESPN, NBCUniversal plans to provide its apps for use on video-game consoles and Internet-connected set-top boxes from companies including Roku Inc., Bond said.
"Our objective is to make our apps available wherever our customers are," Bond said. "We'll look at all the other opportunities out there."