Where, oh, where is my regional Apple TV content?

I love my Apple TV, but what I'd love even more is a healthy dose of regional content on it. AirPlay is OK, but I see it more a means to an end in certain circumstances, not an integral part of my experience. When I'm relaxing watching TV, I don't want to have to reach for my iPhone or iPad, or even my Mac in order to put something on there to watch.

The major free-to-air channels in the UK -- BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 -- all have on-demand video services. Each of them also has an iOS application to watch their TV content on your iPhone and iPad. On the Mac, you only need the web browser. On the Apple TV, I'd love each of these to have their own channel.

AirPlay isn't quite the same

AirPlay is great, I use it all the time. Be it sending music or video from my iOS devices or mirroring the display on my Mac to the TV. Mirroring a Mac display doesn't help in this situation though, because I can't use it for anything else. OS X doesn't provide the same media-only AirPlay options that iOS does. (Fingers crossed for OS X 10.9...)

The other issue is that the apps have to be specifically AirPlay enabled. For example, this method works great on the BBC iPlayer app, but doesn't work at all on the ITV Player app, because it doesn't have AirPlay enabled. Whether it's DRM issues or contractual obligations that keep apps AirPlay free, or force strange AirPlay implementations, it makes no difference to the end user. We just think it's broken.

In the absence of proper channels, AirPlay is all there is, for those that support it. I find myself using apps like the iPlayer more than ITV Player simply because I can watch them on the TV if I want to.

Never mind when you try to mirror from an iPhone and the Phone app actually rings, killing the TV...

The TV is for relaxing

I like to relax when I'm watching TV, so when I'm using my Apple TV I just kick back, find something to watch and off I go. There's just not quite enough content to make me want to use the Apple TV more. The hardware is fine, the software is fine -- to me, at least -- I just want more content. I want to use my Apple TV more. I want to have one under every TV I have, and not have to think about whether I'll need my iPhone or iPad to help decide what I want to watch.

So, coming out of WWDC I would really love to see some Apple TV news. I'd love to see Apple announce that they've struck a whole bunch of regional content deals all over the world. Or the ability for developers to make apps for the platform so the likes of the BBC could do it themselves. And I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing for a better spread of regional content.

So, what would you love to see Apple do with the Apple TV at WWDC? What kind of content are you longing for in your part of the world?

Richard Devine

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

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There are 19 comments. Add yours.

mangoldm says:

Would love to be able to pull up local channels in DC where I live now, as well as in Pittsburgh where I used to live, or in Boulder where I just visited last week. The inability to crack the local-TV content problem is one of the pillars supporting the TV status quo.

theKHMERboy says:

I just got myself an Apple TV last week and so far I am enjoying it with all the tv shows I purchase n stuff I can watch on my Apple TV and I always listen to music and use it on Apple TV or YouTube when I am bored.. Probably does more then I think but for now it's something pretty convenient for me when I am just at home relaxing

jvv49 says:

Actually you can use itv player via AirPlay. Double click the home button to bring up the multitasking bar then swipe all the way left where you'll se the AirPlay icon.

Richard Devine says:

Not seeing it, still seeing my Spotify controls. Either way it's not built in to the app, which means its not the experience it should be.

parishyoung says:

AirPlay is possible in the ITV app, but only on iPad. The experience is terrible. Channel 4 flat out bans it.

jvv49 says:

Well if 4OD have "banned" it then that might be an indication that they might not support an AppleTV native app.
To be clear I'm not arguing against the concept of the ATV having built in channel apps, but it may not be entirely up to Apple.
I was only pointing out that the statement in the article that Airplay has to be built into each app isn't correct. Though I stand corrected that this is true for iPad only. If individual app makers have chosen to disable functionality that's built into the device then they probably have a reason.

wolliwuk says:

I share your frustration. Living in the UK I would love to have apps for all the catchup tv. Even Sky have relented and built that into their HD Box system. I am really hoping Apple opens it up to app developers and we see an app store for the Apple TV either that or someone just hurry up and jailbreak the ATV3

moroboshi says:

I'm amazed anyone outside the US puts up with the ATV. The box is, to be frank, a waste of space. Not having BBC iPlayer in the UK is akin to not having Netflix in the US, which is why EVERY streaming box available in the UK has iPlayer... except the Apple TV.

I use my Xbox and PS3 for streaming. The PS3 has every UK streaming service except Now TV (which I don't subscribe to anyway), and the Xbox has every service except ITV (which I never watch anyway).

When I hear Apple fans defending the ATV's miserable lack of content by claiming airplay does the job I laugh. Well yes, tying up my iPad (and having to have it lying around at all times I want to watch TV) just so I can watch iPlayer on my TV is a marvelous idea, and by marvelous, I mean absolutely terrible.

The ATV is dead. Apple need to either delete it, or start from scratch with a new design. Look at what Microsoft are doing with the Xbox One - now there's a company which has embraced TV in a big way. (gamers would say too big...)

paul.j.nelson says:

I have to disagree, I have had all three Apple TVs and all of them do the job I bought them for, watching my iTunes purchases/rentals on my living room TV and Netflix. I also use it to stream music from my Mac or iOS devices. Very rarely use it to watch You Tube.

For any catch up TV programmes I want to watch I use my Virgin TiVo box. Most digital TV boxes/smart TVs that connect to the Internet offer iPlayer etc.

I don't think it's dead as it does what it was primarily designed for, plus any of those services can be added through a software update.

moroboshi says:

If that's all you want from it, fair enough. I suspect most expect a lot more now. The ATV has even fewer services than the Roku, and that's been an unmitigated failure since it's launch here a year and a half ago.

A PS3 can be had for only £50 more than an ATV, and it offers *vastly* more content, plus you get a BD drive and it even plays games.

paul.j.nelson says:

Fair enough, you can buy a PS3 for £150, but the only people that would be interested in the Apple TV are those that are already locked in to the iTunes ecosystem.

To be fair to Apple that's all they advertise it as, a way to watch HD films, TV shows, listen to music and view your photos. As well as use it as an AirPlay device.

That's the brilliance of choice, you research what you want from a streaming box and you buy the best one for you.

moroboshi says:

It makes a big difference if you look at the ATV as appliance, something like a toaster or a food processor. Those devices 'do what they say on the tin', and never change. Maybe someday a new attachment will come out, and that would be nice, but realistically, it will never get better.

That isn't really the world we live in anymore though. Most people now have smart phones, so they're used to having a vast array of apps on tap. TVs have apps now, set-top boxes have apps (albeit really terrible ones), as do game consoles. Even cars have apps.

This is why I think Apple should finally put the ATV out of it's misery. It's a product from a bygone era, from a time before apps, which makes it all the more anachronistic given that at it's core, it's an iOS derivative.

Comparing the ATV to the Xbox One is like comparing a horse and trap to the Starship Enterprise.

paul.j.nelson says:

For Apple to add Apps to the Apple TV is merely a software update as it is basically an iOS device, but that's not what it is advertised as. Apple don't compare it to a XBox or PS3 (or XBox One or PS4) and neither did I to be fair. I said that it was excellent at what they advertise it as, an iTunes portal with some Apps bolted on for Netflix and Hulu Plus.

As you said, most set top boxes and smart TVs have these Apps so for Apple to add them to would just be a 'me too' move, not added functionality.

Also, comparing Apple TV to the XBox One would be more akin to comparing the Enterprise NX-01 to the Enterprise E as both provide digital content (purely content not games) but, as you say, Apple TV is way more limited in content as it is just an extra way for Apple to sell content on iTunes as well as subscriptions on Netflix and Hulu Plus and make more money.

Irelandjnr says:

I actually use YouTube more than Netflix on it. But the other member of the household uses Netflix exclusive on it. I love that it has a decent YT app.

paul.j.nelson says:

It has a very good You Tube client on there.

yoscoyote says:

I have one URL that would solve all these issues: http://www.unblock-us.com/

moroboshi says:

Unblock.us isn't going to make BBC iPlayer magically appear on an ATV.

yoscoyote says:

I admit, I really don't know much about iPlayer.

I was referring to your previous comment about using the AppleTV outside the US. With a service like unblock-us you can use the AppleTV as if its running in the US including the ability to run the Netflix and Hulu Plus built-in app on the AppleTV.