Live TV Comes to iPad, But You’ll Have to Stay Home

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You know you want to watch live TV on your iPad, because what else are you going to watch live on your iPad, right?

Well now you can, courtesy an app from Time Warner Cable Inc. — full disclosure, Time Warner Cable was divested from our parent company, Time Warner, in 2009 — that’ll allow your totable Apple slate with its glossy too-pretty-for-just-browsing screen to tap some 30 cable channels, including Comedy Central, Fox News, and MTV.

But here’s the kicker: You can’t leave. The house, I mean. You know, where your TV already is. Because the app only works if you connect through your Time Warner cable modem. Which makes it sort of like wearing an ankle bracelet, only one that attaches to your hands, and plays stuff like “The Daily Show” and “Futurama.”

The reason for that’s not as Machiavellian as it sounds. Time Warner Cable just isn’t authorized to let you watch stuff off their grid. That’s a different set of (presumably pricey) licensing agreements entirely. Not that it wouldn’t be a nifty feature, you know, say you’re suddenly up for some “Skins” or “My Super Sweet 16” around the campfire.

Where do you sign up? As noted, you’ll have to be a Time Warner Cable subscriber, and we’re talking both TV and Internet service (alas, the app’s not a twofer). You’ll also need an iPad, because the company hasn’t said whether the app works on an iPhone or iPod Touch. Not that you’d ever watch TV or a movie on your phone.

Assuming you meet those requirements, all you need is the free app, which you can download from the App Store today, March 15.

That said, the list of won’t-haves might surprise you. You can’t use the tablet as a remote, something other services (like DirecTV) already support. You can’t set it to record shows like a DVR, including no pausing or fast-forwarding through commercials. And shows aren’t on-demand, so you’re stuck browsing whatever’s already running.

And it’s not like the competition’s sitting on its hands. Comcast says it’ll launch a live TV app by end of year, and Cablevision’s reportedly trotting out a solution earlier still. Don’t forget Apple’s own Apple TV, a tiny set-top cube that lets you stream live and on-demand sports games, and which could eventually include a subscription service for live streaming TV.

Then there’s that little thing called a Slingbox, which already lets you stream satellite or set-top TV over an Internet connection, and has for years. Want to break out of your house? Slingbox also lets you remotely fiddle and view your home TV shows from afar.

And you know what they say: There’s an app for that, too.

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