Apple TV is getting VPN apps with tvOS 17, and it could be a game-changer

Apple TV 4K
(Image credit: Future)

Apple TV is about to get support for third-party VPN apps with tvOS 17, arriving as a free update this fall, which could completely change the way we consume content on Apple TV. 

At WWDC 2023 Apple unveiled a slew of awesome updates to its various software for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. Last year, Apple didn't even mention tvOS, but tvOS 17 looks to be a much bigger update, so it got some airtime and its very own press release. 

Amongst updates including the introduction of FaceTime, Apple has very quietly announced upcoming support for third-party VPN apps, but what does that mean? And how could it change the way we use Apple TV? 

VPN for Apple TV

Apple's tvOS 17 release includes; "Third-party VPN support, which enables developers to create VPN apps for Apple TV. This can benefit enterprise and education users wanting to access content on their private networks, allowing Apple TV to be a great office and conference room solution in even more places."

Apple says this will benefit enterprise and education users with a focus on conference room and office use, but surely there's a more potent and far more exciting change coming here?

Third-party VPN apps on Apple TV could allow users to directly access VPN services which unlock expanded viewing of geo-restricted content. For example, users in the UK might be able to access U.S. Netflix shows and movies by changing their location. Likewise, geo-blocked sports games could soon become a thing of the past if a VPN on Apple TV can work around this. 

All of this is to say that VPNs on Apple TV could be one of the biggest changes made to the platform in years, but there's always the chance that Apple has anticipated this and plans to restrict how and when VPNs can be used on Apple TV. This is very much up in the air at this point, but at first glance, I'm skeptical that Apple would provide such a comprehensive tool to let users work around something like geographic streaming restrictions. We've reached out to Apple for some more information on this. 

"According to the documentation, it seems that Apple is indeed opening up the possibility of using third-party VPN solutions on tvOS, not only as Personal VPN (IKEv2) but also as network extensions, theoretically with OpenVPN, WireGuard, and custom protocols," Denis Telezhkin, Senior Software Engineer at ClearVPN told iMore. "We at ClearVPN will explore the new possibility and make product decisions on the new platform, of course. However, at first glance, tvOS doesn’t look like such a significant platform as browsers are, for example. In my opinion, VPN as a browser extension has a greater impact than VPN on Apple TV for users." 

"I am pretty sceptical about Apple’s positioning of the update for the corporate and educational audience," said ClearVPN's product manager Dmytro Yakovliev. "We all know that TV is primarily used for entertainment, streaming, and content consumption. And here's where it gets interesting because the game with bypassing geo-blocking is going to a new level. Meanwhile, Apple did not specify how they will allow the use of VPN solutions on tvOS 17. Will users be able to download VPN apps on their own? I have doubts about that. Therefore, there is a chance that Apple plans to restrict when and how VPN can be used on Apple TV. There is a hypothesis that VPN will become just a technology that can protect confidential data streaming. Something like an embedded mechanism that prevents users from using the usual country picker but still allows access to sensitive data as in the case of corporate VPN."

There are still some unanswered questions, but VPNs on Apple TV is shaping up to be an enticing addition. 

We're covering all the WWDC 2023 announcements live and as they happen. Don't miss all our Apple Vision Pro, iOS 17, macOS Sonoma, iPadOS 17, and watchOS 10 news so far. 

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9

  • devonair
    Although the article is skeptical of Apple allowing these VPN apps to be used to bypass region-locked sports games, part of me is wondering if this is actually Apple being petty. They were in the bidding for NFL Sunday Ticket, but with Google winning that contract this could be a way for them to stick it to the NFL and Google at the same time. :LOL:
  • FFR