Where's iTunes Extras for the Apple TV?

Update: Apple launched iTunes Extras for the Apple TV on July 10, 2014.

Back on September 9, 2009, Apple introduced iTunes Extras, an HTML5-based way for studios to include digital versions of director's commentary tracks, behind the scenes videos, and the other kinds of bonus material commonly found on DVD and Blu-Ray. The original OS X 10.4 Tiger-based Apple TV was updated to support iTunes Extras, and it's musical cousin, iTunes LP. Then, on September 1, 2010, Apple announced an all-new, all-streaming, all-iOS second generation Apple TV, and... iTunes Extras didn't survive the transition. Not only that, they didn't get added back with subsequent software updates. On March 7, 2012, Apple announced the third generation, 1080p Apple TV, and still no iTunes Extras. Now, some 4 years later, iTunes Extras on Apple TV are still MIA.

Apple still sells movies with iTunes Extras, but those extras can't be played on the Apple TV, or on the iPad, iPod touch or iPad - the most popular and common places they'd likely be played. They can only be played via iTunes on Mac or Windows.

I love bonus content - making of, creative process, deleted scenes, bloopers, and all the rest - as much as the TV shows and movies themselves. It's why Hollywood succeeded, on numerous occasions, in scamming me into buying the same movie more than once - the initial release, and then the bonus-laden special edition that followed. The idea of all that content in digital download form is incredibly enticing. Not being able to access and enjoy it on the best possible devices, including the Apple TV, is beyond frustrating.

Right now I'm downloading more than 5GB of bonus content from Star Trek: Into Darkness to iTunes on my Mac, and as soon as it finishes I'll be AirPlaying it to my Apple TV. It's not ideal by any means, given the amount of time it takes to download (rather than just stream) all that content, but it's all that's currently possible.

Despite its money, despite its size, Apple is still resource constrained. I understand that. They can't do all things, all the time. But it's been 4 years since the feature was announced, and 3 years since it was lost to the Apple TV. That's a lot of time, and a lot of downloading, and lot of poor customer experience.

Let's get iTunes Extras on the Apple TV already.

(For even more Hollywood insanity, check out The Digital Bits' story on how Star Trek: Into Darkness bonus features are being used as marketing ploys at the expense of customers. Maddening.)

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Love to see this as an ipad option. But even more the option to download more languages. I live in Japan and some Disney or other kids movies aren't even in English.
    As I want my child to be able to watch English movies in English this is important.
  • I think Apple should be trying a little harder in general when it comes to iTunes Extras. It is often the case that the disc release of a movie will have more extras than on iTunes. And, of course, the missing extras are all the good ones such as commentaries, in-depth making ofs, and feature length documentaries. I wish Apple cared enough to press for disc parity. Currently, I end up buying a movie I like twice, on Blu-ray for the lossless audio and extras and on iTunes for the convenience. I'm sure the studios love this but Apple is all about great experiences and this one isn't. If Apple could provide lossless audio and complete extras that we can enjoy on all of our Apple devices, I will finally be able to abandon disc based media. But it often feels like they just don't care. I hope I'm wrong though and it only looks like they're dragging their feet as they work on something new and awesome for TV.
  • I sold and gave away all of my DVDs and Bluerays with the intention of moving my movie collection to digital (I like less clutter and objects taking up my space). But after I purchased my first movie on iTunes and realised I couldn't access bonus material on my iPad, I was forced to change my mind. Right now I'm just waiting for the feature to be added before investing my money into such a collection if movies. And, of course, iTunes movie selection isn't all that great atm. I'm a big geek and need my anime collection. :p
  • re: "Let's get iTunes Extras on the Apple TV already." Agree. I do like my extra features, director commentary, etc.
    Already pre-ordered the BD of Star Trek Into Darkness. Speaking of which, several BD discs I've bought recently have a "feature" that
    I absolute hate: those must-watch previews that you can't skip over.
    I'd gladly pay a few more bucks to buy movies on iTunes to avoid that spamminess.
    But only if iTunes Extras were available on Apple TV.
  • I agree, I don't really download the content anymore with Apple TV being able to stream and my iPad there really is no need to. Also the 100+ episodes of Big Bang I bought would take an age!! We really need this feature cross platform Apple TV and iOS.
  • "Let's get iTunes Extras on the Apple TV already." Absolutely! This is the reason that for most movie purchases our household makes, we choose a hard-copy disc - so we can watch the bonus features on our TV. Isn't iOS 7 supposed to include the ability to watch [stream] your movie / TV purchased content to your iOS device of choice? I will even go a bit farther by saying I'd love for Apple to completely revamp the "Remote" app to mirror the Apple TV content on my iPhone/iPad instead of goobering around with the current remote functionality - I end up only using it to input search queries and the wee-aluminum remote for navigation.
  • I buy physical in combo packages that include iTunes (not Ultraviolet, if I can help it) digital copies. Best of both worlds without the price of both worlds.
  • Well maybe not the full price but those disks tend to be about $10 more expensive than the iTunes HD videos.
  • Not to mention that, in my experience, the digital copy that comes with the Blu-ray movie is usually (not always) standard definition.
  • Small price to pay, IMO, for the diversity of format.
  • Opening week, they're often $24.99. Works for me.
  • I think iTunes Extras is extremely unlikely in the current Apple TV configuration. There simply ISN'T ENOUGH ON-BOARD STORAGE. This lack of storage lower the bill of materials and the purchase price of the little black box, but it really restricts the ability to download anything at all and hence is the same reason there is no AppleTV AppStore. I think AppleTV should have at least 3 models. A passthrough dongle that receives power and HDMI from your cable box and gives you the same streaming interface as now but the additona; capability to control the cable box and programming guide with an Apple interface. An enhanced box of the same size as now but with more storage and a remote with a keyboard virtual or otherwise. You can purchase a separate accessories for game controller and gesture reading camera. A full-scale bundle of remote with keyboard, game controller, a component with massive storage for multi-GB games using the new controller APIs and also as a Time Machine backup and home automation controller, and a camera that reads your gestures.
  • Most of the iTunes Extras are videos, which could easily be streamed (I think). All that would need to be downloaded would be the interface/menu files, which are probably not that large.
  • Ok, so you seriously believe that I can stream an entire HD movie but can't stream the cartoon before the movie? I can't cache the 100k of HTML data the makes up the menu's? Get serious! This is laziness on the part of Apple and I am glad that the author pointed it out. Note! I didn't have to load the extras locally on my appleTV 1 to be able to play them. They streamed just fine to that device.....just saying.
  • Streaming isn't the issue assuming you have the bandwidth. Caching is the issue with the limited storage of the device.
  • With respect to streaming I'd prefer streaming of movies and tv shows to iPad before streaming iTunes extras to AppleTV.
  • Apple TV, here.
  • I don't understand your argument here. The HTML5 framework for navigating the Extras is probably tiny, and the content itself is usually video... which the AppleTV streams (locally or over the Internet) all the time. I don't see how the storage would be an issue with Extras but not the 1080p video we already watch regularly.
  • I agree, having to download them to PC/Mac is very irritating, when adding a streaming feature to Apple TV should be very easily done. The difficulty is probably in adding the menus, but that should be as simple as displaying a web page, which we know are streamed easily. If Apple can continue to add new Apple TV apps like the iTunes Festival or the Keynote speech app at short notice, then what's taking them so long with the extras? Also, I agree with other comments, the extras are always lacklustre, most of the time seeming like they're just the cutting room floor stuff that they couldn't fit on the disc versions. I'd LOVE to see ALL the extras from the disc version, as I've moved away from physical copies of movies, they just add clutter to my house. I'm not sure if it's a licencing issue that causes iTunes to get the dregs of the extras, but it would be nice to see iTunes becoming more competitive with physical media in future, after all, the more people they can pull away from physical media the better.
  • Totally irrelevant to me. I use a disc-by-mail rental service (Lovefilm Germany) and am very happy with that. No technical issues, complete set of extras and languages. Of course that restricts the viewing of all content to the TV but that's where I would want to watch it anyway. And iTunes Store costs for rentals in HD are way too high (Lovefilm Blu-Rays cost the same as DVDs).
  • so what youre saying is you have no relevant interest, access, or info on to this topic. so why even comment? fyi, the iTunes Extra features we're discussing arent part of rentals, theyre on purchases only.
  • This is the only thing stopping me from switching my whole library from DVD/BD to iTunes movies. Apple needs to figure out what they're doing with Apple TV, so many mixed messages.
  • You forgot to mention the Extras and LPs still play on first-gen Apple TVs... some of us still have one :-)