The BBC comes clean on why there's no iPlayer for Apple TV

BBC iPlayer

British Apple TV owners have been longing for the BBC iPlayer on our favorite black box pretty much forever, but now we might finally know why it hasn't happened. BBC's Chris Yanda has outlined why they went Chromecast, and not Apple TV.

One of the reasons we decided to support Chromecast was that Apple TV currently works only with Apple devices. Chromecast has SDKs available for a number of different platforms including iOS, Android, and the Chrome browser for laptop and desktop computers.

iPhone and iPad owners can get a proper iPlayer experience on their TV using Chromecast. It works really well, but I have to confess to being massively disappointed, still, that it isn't on the Apple TV. From what Yanda says, it doesn't look like we can expect to see it any time soon.

It's still not a particularly great reason, either. The Chromecast is a totally different product to the Apple TV. It requires a mobile device or the Chrome browser to operate – even if it takes the streams directly from the content provider, not from your phone. Apple TV just sits there under your TV, whether you have any other Apple product or not. Chromecast however does mean the BBC just had to add to its existing iOS and Android iPlayer apps to enable the functionality. Apple TV would require a dedicated channel.

So, we may not like it, but there we go. Disappointing though, isn't it?

Source: BBC

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Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

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The BBC comes clean on why there's no iPlayer for Apple TV

65 Comments

It doesn't make sense - iOS apps only work on apple phones, but they build an app there. They have apps for Samsung TV's too ( and I guess other tv manufacturers) which have very limited appeal.

Whilst I can see a lot of chromecasts being sold, I think there is sufficient volume of apple TV's in the UK to justify the BBC making iplayer available.

I think we'll find that Apple want some sort of deal with the BBC. Subscription based service available world-wide with a percentage going into Apples coffers is my guess. In the meantime, we'll just have to "airplay" to the Apple TV.

Someone understood wrong!

Tv works only with Apple products???

Load of rubbish, the Tv has an HDMI port and works with any HDMI accepting tv set! It is usable by itself (well you do need an Internet connection of some kind) for crying out loud.

Apple's system is closed. Chromecast is more open and probably is easier to implement since your just adding code to the apps already in both the Android store and the iOS store. Seriously show me someone who has an Apple tv that only has an Apple tv and no smartphone or computer.

"show me someone who has an Apple tv that only has an Apple tv and no smartphone or computer." What is your point?

I mean, show me someone who has a Chromecast and no smartphone or computer? I don't get it, please explain :)

The point is Google's model assumes you have a tablet, smartphone, or computer. This is how you control the Chromecast. One of these devices is your controller. The apple tv is $100 and most of the people who have this are Apple homes which leaves a big portion of people who don't have this product. Chromecast is only around $40 and works with more types of devices. Also I believe the BBC app is in both app stores and Chromecast just needs some extra coding in the existing app and boom you have your apps for both iOS and Android. This little Chromecast is picking up steam fast. Weekly more apps come with Chromecast Support. Soon there will be more apps for Chromecast than Apple TV. Lets say by the end of the year.

Umm, NO! You can buy an Apple TV and not have to own any other Apple product. Your PC with iTunes is enough, and if that isn't enough, there are plenty of third party apps for PC and Android that will stream from any device via airplay. Chromecast isn't a stand alone device, you need another device for it to work. Apple TV, you turn it on, grab your remote and you can watch anything from Netflix, Hulu+, Discovery, or any of the dozens of channels provided in many countries. You can't do that with chromecast. You don't even get a remote, they expect you to sort that out yourself. So if I just want a device, without owning any other devices, chromecast won't work. Nice try, but your argument has too many flaws to even be considered an argument. So you hate Apple, we get it. Apple TV is a far better device than chromecast could ever hope to be. And your predictions, are a joke. Apple TV with the power of iOS devices brings tens of millions of apps to it.

The point is you could own an Apple TV without an iPhone, iPad or a computer. The dedicated channels on it don't require anything other than a web connection to function.

… and a subscription for your chosen service! But your point is well taken, Apple TV can stand alone, unlike chromecast, but airplay makes it much more useful.

I'd say music is the easiest eco system thing to change. You download it all to a folder and then sign up for the Free Google Play Music. You put the app on your computer and select the folder and Google matches the songs and now you have your music collection in Googles Cloud for free. Use it or don't. It has no cost.

Exactly. The Appletv was the first Apple product I purchased. At the time I purchased it, I had used a PC for my computer and a BlackBerry for my phone.

This is BS. Chromecast is far from "open" and Google has spent significant time locking it down and stopping people from opening it up. You are just doing the knee-jerk .. "Google is open, Apple is closed" comment without really thinking about it or perusing the actual facts. Android is more closed than iOS in many ways, Chrome and Chromecast is the same.

Its the most open platform meaning any multimedia app can use the SDK to add the casting button to both Android and iOS apps. The BS is missing in action.

Disgraceful! Time to start a campaign Richard to show just how much public support there is for our public broadcaster to get this resolved, particularly given their recent announcement regarding BBC3.

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I have a Smart TV with the iplayer built in but having on the Apple TV would just be so much more convenient. More importantly as you said to another commenter you don't need an iOS device and that's why I got one for my elderly mother who loves it for music and movies but would love to have access the BBC iplayer too! Time for another poll Richard ;-)

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Right. So, to get BBC iPlayer on my TV, I have to go purchase another device to get it? Really?

What a completely weak argument.

Anyways, pointless for anyone here in NZ anyways as they don't let us use iPlayer at all.

In France we don't have any TV channel available on ATV. But well. :p
I think you can stream from the dedicated apps (if any), and most internet boxes offer the ability to directly stream replays from them.

The BBC iPlayer app works just fine with the Apple TV via airplay. All that's happened is that Google has provided similar functionality that works for both iOS and chrome. Granted, it'd be nice to see a BBC iPlayer tile on Apple TV, but not vital.

The bonus to Chromecast is that the stream comes direct from the source to the dongle. You control it using your phone but it isn't mirroring the content. I can't be the only one who hates using AirPlay because I always inadvertently end up cutting it off? (Or maybe I am :P)

Don't forget your wasting the battery on your phone as well. My Android phone is sipping power but if your airplaying content you burning it up.

Not so much… Just played a 30 minute video using iPlayer to my Apple TV and it used 3% battery. So on a full charge we're looking at 16hrs airplay time.

Translation: "All the cheap slags and muscle-boys in Manchester use Android because they're basically all criminals or poor or something, so we must support Android."

The iPlayer has probably the worst interface I've ever seen anyway. I tried to use it for a few days as I am a big BBC fan, but it's such a POS it's just not worth it. Adverts galore, no way to cleanly access what you want to, just a lot of sliding tiles with partial shows, half seasons etc. Confusing mess.

Give me an advert-free way to access BBC programs on my AppleTV and I would probably pay something like what Netflix charges (assuming it includes the full back catalogue), but otherwise it's a non-starter. I think there are literally millions of folk around the world that would think similar or pay a similar amount also. BBC is the worst, most short-sighted of TV empires.

Given there is no money at stake, no. They are not. BBC isn't a pay-tv system. It's paid for by everyone with a broadcast-receiving TV in the UK.

also:

For Chromecast, I need a Chromecast dongle, and the iPlayer app to cast to it.
For AppleTV, I need an AppleTV, and the iPlayer app to AirPlay to it.

Same same, no?

Yes, and I can see if you have an Apple TV already you might be a little salty but remember that Apple makes partnership deals on Apple TV and Google doesn't need to on Chromecast. They provide an SDK and it's up to the content company on if they want to add casting to their app.

Apple does this too. Thats AirPlay, and BBC has supported it for years. It just doesn't land on the home screen of the ATV. From what I know, iPlayer doesn't land on the Chromecast, either - you have to initiate it from a phone.

All Chromecast is initiated from the phone / tablet / or computer. Chromcast is a button that appears on Android and iOS apps on the phone or tablet. Think of netfix. Your run the Netflix app and skim through the movies on the phone. You select the move and hit the button for Chromecast and it forwards the info to Chromecast so it knows where to pull the movie from. There is not desktop really.

If the BBC is going to give a weak excuse they should at least get their facts right. The Apple TV works standalone. Maybe if the TV license was optional they would put the effort in to create an app for the Apple TV. Given the choice I would get all my TV needs via Netflix and iTunes. It is just a matter of time before Apple will provide enough content to compete with broadcast TV.

A TV license IS OPTIONAL. If you have no broadcast-receiving equipment, you don't pay it. I lived in London for 6 years (got back 6 months ago), and I never paid it - I never had to (and yes, I checked with them, as well as working at the BBC :) )

Let me see:

For Chromecast, I need a Chromecast dongle, and the iPlayer app to cast to it.
For AppleTV, I need an AppleTV, and the iPlayer app to AirPlay to it.

Same Same. Airplay has worked for _years_ for iPlayer. That was my primary TV interface when I lived in the UK.

I'd like to see an AppleTV app on the frontrow of the AppleTV, but it's by no means blocked from being used as it stands.

"Apple TV just sits there under your TV, whether you have any other Apple product or not."
Yes, this is true. But, if I get an AppleTV, and no other Apple product, can I watch my Google Play content on it? You technically can watch your Google Play stuff on Android and iOS, and you can only watch your iTunes content on an iOS device. The Google Play/CC is a tad more open than iTunes/ATV.

But if you get a chromecast and no other device at all, you can't do anything with the chromecast. I'm missing your point.

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So, you're missing the point that the Chromecast is compatible with *more* devices? I didn't say it was also compatible with no devices, just that it is compatible with more. The ATV lock-in wouldn't matter if you have nothing else, it matters if you have *anything* else.

Also, the CC is $65 cheaper than the ATV. For that $65, you could get a used iPod Touch/Android Device to use with the CC.

Just another to add to the list of services that every other device I own can access, just not on AppleTV. Vudu, Flixter, etc among them. Yet, we blame the content provider not Apple and their walled AppleTV garden. I think folks are misinterpreting what he is saying, as well - why take the expense and time to make it only available on one Apple Device when they can spend the time making it available on many other devices with the same amount of work. Anything they create would only be usable if you own one specific Apple product - the Apple TV. AppleTV is really only good for interaction with your other iOS devices, and will remain so until they allow a true App Store which can run the same iOS apps all these services already have.

Chromecast is awesome. Part of the reason is because of it working with everything. If Apple possessed the technical ability to make their products work with everything, people would pick them more often and they wouldn't keep getting passed over for superior products from Google.

"...passed over for superior products from Google."Hahahaaahahahahaaaaaaaaaa! "You're kidding, right?" Hahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaa... "I can't stop laughing!" Hahahahahahaaa... "Oh, my side hurts!" Hahahahahahaaaaaaaa...

I don't know which is more pathetic. Your childish reaction to reality, or your belief that Apple products are anything but mediocre. You really drank the kool-aide kid.

Hahahahaaaaaa...Yeah, that was rather childish of me rolling around on the floor, like that, and laughing at you. Next you'll be saying Google reinvented the smart phone and redefined the mobile phone industry. Hahahahahahaaaaaaa.

I'd have to agree with Scott. Apple TV is not a better product and you'll see that Chromecast will have many, many more content options than Apple TV within the next few years. I can already use pocket cast (app for podcasts) to cast to the TV. Everyone who makes an app with multimedia that can benefit by the TV will be adding the button.

Hmm, nice. Here's how I use my Apple TV. Eh-hem. Clearing my throat! Through airplay, I use my 65" DLP TV as a second display for my MacBook. I take online courses and use the TV to view videos while doing the work on the MacBook screen. I have access to all my iTunes content; music, movies, TV shows, photos, podcasts and Apple University. I play games from my iPhone and iPad. My four year old daughter likes to play Angry Birds on the big screen or color or check out her favorite book. I also use it for my keynote presentations. I can view pictures immediately after they're taken on my iPad or iPhone through Photostream on the same TV. We do this when one of us can't attend our son's soccer game. It connects to Ethernet and has a port for optical sound. So yes, it is clearly the better product and far superior to Google's offering.

The difference is you are an Apple zealot. You are looking for evidence to support a prior decision because you have faith, not knowledge. If you had knowledge you'd know you could use the superior Chomecast to do all those things on your existing Apple stuff, or any other stuff. And that anybody visiting your house to use could use whatever phone or laptop they have with the same Chromecast. Nobody would be stuck using Apple's crappy media player.

Hahahahaaaahahahahaaaaa...As always, Google and it's legion of Androids, like you, are always followers. Never leaders! It should bother you that they consistently follow every single thing Apple does, but of course, you won't see it that way. Will you? Chrome cast is original and far superior to Apple TV. Blah, blah, blah! Our copy is better! Blah, blah, blah! My subtle point is this, if I decided to switch platforms, I'd always feel I'm a step or two behind. You can always take someone's idea and tweak it because it's easier. Coming up with the idea is harder. I choose to stick with the latter. You can argue features and functions, all of which I already have, if that's all you can bring to the table, but original thought will always carry the day. That's what Apple does best and that's why they're my choice. Okay back to being childish. Hahahahahahaaaaaaaaaa...Hang it up man, this is an argument you can't win...And you look even sillier trying! Hahahahahaaaaaaaaa...Google TV. HAHAHAAAAAAA. Google Glasses. Hahahahaaaaaaa...Chromecast. Hahahahahahaaaaaaaa...In Scott's world Google is better than Apple 'cause...err...umm...they...they're NOT evil! HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA...

Lesson for you, if you come to an Apple forum peddling your nonsense reality, you will be challenged; then slapped down and laughed at, Scotty boy... So, go harass the guys over at Crackberry and WP Central. I'm sure you'll get more of the same. Now, off with you and your Chromecast, Google TV AND Google Glasses! Hahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaa...

Put down the pitchforks and consider what iPhones, iPads, Chromecast, and browsers offer the Apple TV does not? It ain't technical - it's distribution control.

iPhones and iPad BBC apps can be restricted (or customized?) based on the user's App Store region. Chromecasts are initiated from devices with similar guards in place. By contrast, the Apple TV has neither an App Store nor means to restrict software by region, and Apple does not offer regional SKUs. Lacking any of this, Apple TVs would immediately step around all international distribution deals the BBC has.

I'm not advocating hardware region coding, but, considering in the US alone the BBC has lucrative channels in place with PBS and BBC America, and that just a couple years ago every US cableco threatened to drop BBC America in response to iplayer, it is easily understandable why the BBC might shy away from releasing a native ATV app.

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That explanation makes absolutely no sense and it's a lie! It's their product and it's their decision on who gets an app. Plain and simple. Just don't treat us like we're simpletons and feed us this lie. It's better to just stay quiet and not offer an explanation.

What did you expect when playing in Apples walled of garden? It was just a mater of time before one of the big content provides went "nop we aren't going there when there are other cross platform options".

I agree that Chromecast gives content providers options they didn't have before and esp now that Chromecast has rolled to other countries other than the U.S. It's pretty smart how Google designed this to run off apps from the app store so any app could use Chromecast.

That's an excellent point.

I have another theory about why it's not available on the aTV.

I think it's the iPlayer interface that the BBC want to keep in line with offerings on other platforms.

I have iPlayer and Netflix on my iPhone, Galaxy Tab, and Samsung Smart TV and they all look roughly the same.

I also have Netflix on my Apple TV 2 and the GUI is very different. It's in keeping with the normal (very dated) black background/white text/blue box format that is used system-wide on Apple TV.

I just don't think the BBC want to dilute their branded interface.

I think we'll have to wait for the inevitable launch of App Store for the Apple TV...

I don't understand why they couldn't support Chromecast AND AppleTV! They have iplayer apps for both iOS and for Android after all. It's a BS excuse on their part!

Unfortunately, not possible to throw a load of money at the BBC to prevent them making services for other devices, what a shame.

It seems to me that what Apple TV is missing is not iPlayer, but a web browser. Coupled with bookmarking (like iOS can save a website as a springboard icon) this would make integrating nearly all media services possible. In either rudimental form (i.e. as a regular web page ) or, if the developer adds A FEW targeted lines of code, an experience more in-line with Apple TV's user experience guidelines, giving it the appearance of an "app". Simple really.