Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Podcasts on Apple TV

Find, listen to, and watch your favorite podcasts with this complete guide

Podcasts on Apple TV - the Essential Guide
Explore the huge world of alternative content on your Apple TV with this great guide. (Image c/o: Silveira Neto/Flickr). Silveira Neto/Flickr

Your Apple TV will let you listen to and watch podcasts. ​Apple began offering podcasts through iTunes in 2005. It is now the world's biggest podcast distributor.

What is a Podcast?

Podcasts are a little like radio shows. They usually feature people talking about something they are very enthusiastic about, and they are aimed at smaller, niche audiences. The shows are distributed online.

The first podcasts appeared around 2004 and the topics covered by podcast producers cover almost every topic you can ever imagine (and quite a few more you may never have come across before).

 

You'll find shows on almost any topic, from Apple to Zoology. The people who make these shows include big media firms, corporations, educators, experts and back bedroom show hosts. Some even make video podcasts – great to watch on your Apple TV!

And boy, are podcasts are popular. According to Edison Research21 percent of Americans aged 12-years or older say they listened to a podcast within the last month. Podcast subscriptions surpassed 1 billion in 2013 across 250,000 unique podcasts in over 100 languages, Apple said. An estimated 57 million Americans listen to podcasts each month.

When you find a podcast you enjoy you can subscribe to it. That will allow you to play it any time and whenever you like, and collect future episodes to listen to whenever you like. Most podcasts are free, but some producers charge a fee or offer additional content to people who subscribe, sell merchandise, sponsorships and find other ways to make podcasts sustainable.

One great example of the subscription for free content model is the endlessly interesting British History Podcast. That podcast offers additional episodes, transcripts, and other content to supporters.

Podcasts on Apple TV

Apple TV lets you listen to and watch podcasts on your television screen using the Podcasts app, which was introduced with tvOS 9.1.1 on Apple TV 4 in 2016.

 

The old Apple TV also had its own podcast app, so if you have used podcasts before and use iCloud to sync them then all your subscriptions should already be available through the app, so long as you are logged into the same iCloud account.

Meet the Podcast App

Apple’s Podcast app divided into six main sections. Here is what each section does:

  • Unplayed: Any new or unplayed episodes of podcasts you subscribe to will be listed here.
  • My Podcasts: You manage all your podcasts in this window. To manage a podcast just select its icon and tap and hold the touch surface on your Siri Remote. A menu will appear offering you a button to: Play the podcast; Refresh for new content; access podcast Settings for that particular Podcast (more on this below); and Delete a podcast from the list if you are no longer interested in the topic.
  • Featured: This section looks ever so much like the Apple TV App Store. It provides you with a highly visual interface within which you can explore every podcast that is available to you, by topic, and also within curated collections (see ‘Finding New Podcasts’ below).
  • Top Charts: This shows you the most popular podcasts. You can be filter the results by category (Arts, Business, Comedy, etc.).
  • Search: The tvOS search tool bar lets you look for podcasts you know about. You can use Siri to search, just like anything else on Apple TV.
  • Now Playing: The podcast episode that  you are currently playing appears here.

Finding New Podcasts

The most important places to find new shows inside the Podcasts app are the Featured and Top Charts section.

These offer you a great overview of the podcasts that are available when you open them up in standard view, but you can also use them to drill down through what’s there by category.

There are sixteen categories, including:

  • Arts
  • Business
  • Comedy
  • Education
  • Games & Hobbies
  • Government & Organizations
  • Health
  • Kids & Family
  • Music
  • News & Politics
  • Religion & Spirituality
  • Science & Medicine
  • Society & Culture
  • Sports & Hobbies
  • Technology
  • TV & Film

The Search tool is another useful way to find podcasts you might want to listen to. This lets you search for specific podcasts you may have heard of by name, and will also search by topic, so if you want to find podcasts about "Travel", "Lisbon", "Dogs", or anything else, (including "Anything Else"),  just enter what it is you are looking for into the search bar to see what’s available.

How do I Subscribe to a Podcast?

When you find a podcast you like, the primary way to subscribe to a podcast is to tap the ‘subscribe’ button on the podcast description page. This is situated directly underneath the podcast title. When you subscribe to a podcast, new episodes will automatically be made available to stream inside the Unplayed and My Podcasts tabs, as described above.

Life Beyond iTunes

Not every podcast is listed or made available via iTunes. Some podcasters may choose to publish their work through other directories, while others may only wish to distribute their shows to a limited audience. 

There are some third party podcast directories you can explore to find new shows, including Stitcher. This provides an extensive selection of podcasts accessible on both iOS and Android devices as well as through a web browser. It hosts some content you won’t find elsewhere, including its own unique shows. You will need to use Home Sharing or AirPlay to listen/watch them through Apple TV (see below).

Video Podcasts

If you want to watch TV, rather than just listen to it you'll be glad to find that there are some great video podcasts produced to broadcast quality standard. Here are three great video podcasts you might enjoy:

  • NASAcast: This is a fantastic podcast that brings you all the latest news, images, videos and information from NASA. Endlessly fascinating, this is one podcast with universal appeal. Link.
  • TED Talks:  TED Talks video podcasts will make you think, teach you new things and keep your mind inspired across a huge range of topics from an equally huge selection of speakers. LINK.
  • Events at the Apple Store: Apple publishes its own video podcasts filmed during special events it hosts at Apple Stores. These events feature world acclaimed authors, film makers, and musicians, and you won't find them speaking anywhere else. LINK.

General Podcast Settings

To get the most from podcasts on Apple TV you must learn how to handle Settings for the app. You will find these in Settings > Apps > Podcasts. There are five parameters you can adjust:

  • Sync Podcasts: On/Off
  • Refresh Every: You can set the app to refresh every hour, every six hours, daily, weekly, or manually. This is what controls when your system checks for new transmissions. If the podcasts you listen to are not updated that often, you may choose to check weekly -- but if you enjoy a daily cast you will at least want a daily update.
  • Limit Episodes: You can use this parameter to limit how long you keep episodes and how many you choose to keep.
  • Delete Played Episodes: This On/Off Setting lets you keep or delete podcast episodes you have played.
  • Custom Colors: When this setting is switched to on podcasts will use custom colors based on the artwork of that specific podcast.

You will also see which version of the Podcast app you have installed.

Specific Podcast Settings

You can also adjust specific settings for the podcasts you subscribe to.

You achieve this in the My Podcasts view when you select a podcast icon and push the touchscreen to get to the interactive menu as described above. Tap Settings and you get the following parameters you can choose to adjust for that podcast. This ability to personalize how each podcast behaves on an individual basis puts you in control.

Here is what you can achieve with these controls:

  • Play: This lets you define how you want podcast episodes to be played, you can either play sequentially through every podcast starting with the first, or play backward from the most recent to the first ever episode. 
  • Sort Order: Like Play, this setting lets you define how you want podcast episodes to be listed, you can have them set so oldest episodes are at the top of the podcast description screen, or new episodes. Choose Oldest to Newest if you’ve come across a new podcast and want to listen through every episode in the order they were released, or choose Newest to Oldest if you just want to stay up-to-date.
  • Subscribed: When new episodes of podcasts you subscribe to are made available they will be marked as unplayed and made available in My Podcasts. You can unsubscribe from podcasts you no longer enjoy using this tool.
  • Refresh Every: This Setting lets you define how frequently to download a podcast on per podcast basis, rather than for all your podcasts.
  • Limit Episodes: Define how many episodes of the podcast you want to store on youre Apple TV.
  • Delete Played Episodes: This Off/On command allows you to choose to delete podcasts after you have played them.

How do I Play Podcasts I Can’t Find on Apple TV?

Apple may be the world’s biggest podcast distributor, but you won’t find every podcast on iTunes. If you want to play a podcast you cannot find on Apple TV, you have two options: AirPlay and Home Sharing.

To use AirPlay to stream podcasts to your Apple TV you must be on the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV, then follow these instructions:

  • On an iOS smartphone or tablet you need to start playing your podcast using your choice of player. You must then swipe up from the bottom of your screen to open Control Center. In Control Center you must tap AirPlay Mirroring, then select your Apple TV from the list.
  • On a Mac start playing the content and then tap the AirPlay button in the Menu bar. More information about using AirPlay on Apple TV.

To use Home Sharing from a Mac or PC with iTunes installed and the content you want to listen to/watch downloaded to the iTunes Library, follow these steps:

  • Click on the Computers icon (it’s orange with a right facing arrow on what looks like a notebook computer) and enter your Apple ID and password.
  • Click Continue and then click on Podcasts. This will let you stream podcasts you have stored in iTunes directly from your Mac or PC. 
  • So long as the Mac or PC that contains your podcast within its iTunes library remains on the same network, you will be able to choose the computers icon, select Podcasts and get the show you want to hear/watch.