Apple's TV App: What You Need to Know

Netflix, Amazon Prime Hold Out

Apple TV Watch Now
The Apple TV's TV app offers a new Watch Now feature.

TV is Apple’s new Apple TV app. The company says it wants the application to enable Apple TV users to spend all their time using the device, rather than being limited by the electronic programming guide made available by the satellite/cable company, or the one inside the television.

The Future of Television… is Apple

The app aims to gather together all the TV shows and movies that are made available to you through the apps you have installed on your Apple TV, and make these available inside one single app.

It was introduced at a special Apple event in October 2016.

“The TV app shows you what to watch next and easily discover TV shows and movies from many apps in a single place,” said Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue.

That’s great, but the app doesn’t yet support two of the most popular sources of online content, Amazon Prime, or Netflix. That’s interesting, as Netflix is currently available as an Apple TV app, and hopefully will remain so. However, in a statement to Wired, Netflix said it was not even currently considering linking up with Apple’s TV app. The app will work with content made available to subscribers from cable or other TV providers using apps on Apple TV. Providers Hulu, HBO, Starz and Showtime are supported by the app.

TV anywhere

In Apple’s world, TV isn’t just for your television, the app will also be made available for your iPad and iPhone.

When you use the app to watch something on any supported device, you can pause content and continue watching it on one  of your other devices, the app will know exactly where to restart the item, just as you already expect from iTunes.

Apple says TV  (the app) will be made available within a future Apple TV software update, originally scheduled to ship in December 2016.

The first public beta of the app took place in November 2016 when it was included within iOS 10.2 beta. The update is available exclusively in the US at first. International roll out has not been announced.

How it Works

The highly visual TV app combines all the content you have available into five main groups: Watch Now, Up Next, Recommended, Library and Store. This is what they do:

Watch Now:

This section shows you all the TV shows and movies you have available to you, either through iTunes or apps. This option also lets you see what you have playing next and check recommendations.

Up Next:

This works a little like Up Next does for music content: you can decide what is going to play and put it all in whatever order you want to watch it. Apple has put a little machine intelligence inside this feature, which means it will put items in the order it thinks you are most likely you will want to watch it, but you can change the order. You can also ask Siri to continue watching anything you have been watching.

Recommended:

Apple has also put together recommendations for your television entertainment. These consist of curated and trending collections of shows and movies, including selections chosen by curators hired by Apple to put together interesting collections.

You can also search for recommendations within genres.

Library:

This section comprises all the movies and TV shows you might have rented or purchased through iTunes.

Store:

This section lets you explore everything that is available through iTunes. It also makes it much easier to identify and download new video services you may not have come across. When you do download an app the content that it makes available to you is immediately made available through other sections, such as Recommendations and Watch Now.

Live Tune-In, Single Sign-On

Apple has also introduced the new Siri feature for Apple TV that lets you tune in directly to live news and sporting events through apps.

This was made available at the same time as the company announced these new features in October, 2016. The Single Sign-on feature, which enables DIRECTVDISH Network and subscribers to other pay-TV services to sign in just once on Apple TV, iPhone and iPad to gain immediate access to all the apps that are part of their pay-TV subscription. 

A new Live section lets you watch live broadcasts, including news and sporting events, using a UI that also makes it easy to access on-demand stories. This integrates with Siri, so you can ask your Apple TV to look for a specific game and it will hunt through all your available apps and services to source that game for you – you don’t need to know who provides it. You can also use Siri to search for more complex collections of live events, “Show me what football games are on now,” for example.