Apple launched iOS 10.2 and tvOS 10.1 on Monday, both of which include access to Apple’s new “TV” app. It’s a confusing name, given that we now have “Apple TV” the app and “Apple TV” the set-top box, but I digress. It’s a pile of garbage, and it shows exactly how messed up the streaming video market is right now.
First things first: Apple TV (the app) is a glorified portal to Hulu, HBO Now and content Apple sells (or you’ve purchased) in iTunes. You can also add CBS, Starz, Showtime, The CW, Tribeca Shortlist, MUBI, CW Seed, Crunchyroll and CuriosityStream, but really you’re just using “Apple TV” to search through the content and then play it in any one of those applications. Also, while it supports HBO’s free-standing HBO Now service, it does not support HBO Go. That’s mind boggling, especially since HBO Go is an add-on option for folks who pay for streaming TV services like Sling TV or AT&T DirecTV Now.
Apple TV (the app) only pulls content from one of the aforementioned streaming TV services, Sling TV, which, again, makes no sense to me. The only folks who are going to be compelled enough to open the app in the first place are folks who are cord-cutters, the ones who are signing up for PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and DirecTV Now. Anyone else is probably just going to open up their cable provider’s app for on-demand watching.
It also highlights a bunch of content you probably don’t have access to, even if you pay for it through other means. Like The Simpsons? Awesome. Tap it, it’ll take you to iTunes where you can buy it or to the app store to download another app, “FXNow” before you can start streaming it. For some shows, there’s the option to download “FOX Now” or “FXNow,” which just adds to the confusion. You’ll need to do this for all content that lives in separate applications, unless you use single sign-on, which itself is an atrocity. More on that later.
Again adding to the confusion, if you pay for DirecTV Now (not DirecTV), you won’t be able to log in to apps like FXNow because it’s not even listed as a provider. Yes, that’s as confusing as it sounds.
Then there’s the whole movie situation. You might think that you have access to the titles under “Top Movies,” perhaps because they’re presented along with the TV shows you can watch on-demand. You don’t, though, and the box art simply sit as shortcuts to the iTunes Store where you can buy them.
Worse, on the Apple TV version of Apple TV (…I can’t even…) there’s no “My Movies” section, at least that I could find, which means Apple really is just trying to up-sell you content instead of giving you access to what you already own. Credit where credit’s due, though. If the movie is in an app like HBO Now, you can play it there. That’s the case with Home Alone right now. Again, though, you’re out of luck if you have HBO Go instead of HBO Now.
Apple TV (the app) just shows how fractured the streaming market is right now. You need HBO Now instead of HBO Go. You need Hulu to watch shows, or you need to buy them in iTunes, or download the individual app so that Apple TV (the app) can find the show you’re looking for. And if you pay for those channels through services like DirecTV or PlayStation Vue, you’ll just have to hope that the app you’re trying to watch lists those as a provider you can sign into. If not, sorry bucko, you’re out of luck again.
Speaking of signing in, “single sign-on” is a joke at best. It only supports a selection of networks and TV providers, which means sometimes you’ll need to log-in to each individual app and sometimes you won’t. Here’s how to do that if you’re interested. It only supports some cable providers, though, like CenturyLink Prism, DirecTV (Not DirecTV Now), Dish, GTA, GVTC Communications, Hawaiian Telcom, Hotwire, MetroCast, Service Electric Cablevision and Sling TV. Nope, Time Warner Cable and Comcast aren’t supported. Those are two of the top three cable providers in the entire country. What a mess.
Don’t believe me? Open it for yourself. Before you do, take two of these.