Apple is on track to unveil its new Apple TV hardware this September, according to a new report from BuzzFeed News, however the rumoured TV subscription service won’t be accompanying it just yet. Several reports suggested that Apple originally planned to launch the new device at WWDC this past June, but refocused its efforts on Apple Music instead. A fall launch of the new hardware comes as little surprise, however there were expectations that Apple would launch a TV subscription service at the same time, however this latest news echoes a report from early June that suggested that it could easily be delayed into next year due to delays in finalizing licensing deals. The next-generation Apple TV is expected to be announced during the fall iPhone event and remains in line with what previous rumours have indicated, with a new, slimmer design and an Apple A8 CPU, a “drastically improved” remote with touch-pad input, Siri support, and an App Store and SDK to provide support for third-party apps.
While Apple has been expected for some time to release a new Apple TV with a remote that would reportedly incorporate a touchpad, a new patent revealed by Patently Apple suggests that Apple may be looking to go a step beyond a simple touchpad with an integrated Touch ID sensor. While the patent itself remains broad, referring simply to a “sensor configured to detect a biometric characteristic of a user,” a fingerprint appears to be the element highlighted in the main drawings, and the text suggests that biometric authentication could be used both for authentication to access secure features such as parentally locked content, as well as identifying a user to select a specific viewing profile such as favorite channels. With the Apple TV being positioned as a hub for Apple’s new HomeKit home automation service, the sensor could also extend to home applications, again both for security and customization.
Apple’s negotiations to add all four major broadcast networks to its proposed streaming TV service are gaining momentum, the New York Post reports. Sources say ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are close to gaining the rights to negotiate on behalf of affiliate stations to deliver local live TV feeds to users of Apple’s subscription TV service. Obtaining local programming has been a main goal for Apple to set the service apart from other cord-cutting options. Networks are reportedly offering affiliates like Tribune and Sinclair a cut of the profits to opt in and offer their feeds. Disney or CBS are expected to be first in line to sign a deal to anchor Apple’s TV bundle, but Apple’s insistence that TV partners give up 30 percent of the fee for subscriptions sold in the App Store is still a sticking point. Agreements already in place to prevent networks from charging some distributors less than others and details over the inclusion of cable channels like Discovery and ESPN are also still points of negotiation. Sources say Apple is still hoping to launch the service this fall despite holding off announcing the product at this year’s WWDC. “The platform is ready and it rocks,” a source told the Post.
Also of note in the report: Apple CEO Tim Cook and SVP Eddy Cue were recently spotted talking to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, leading some to speculate on an Apple TV “NFL offering.” Though completely speculative, it’s unclear what such an offering would be, considering the NFL’s new eight-year deal with DirecTV — that deal continues to give the satellite provider the exclusive right to air out-of-market NFL games.
Confirming reports from last month, Showtime’s standalone channel launched today on Apple TV. Unlike last year’s addition of Showtime Anytime – which requires a traditional cable subscription to access content — the standalone Showtime channel will make the network’s offerings available for non-cable subscribers for $11 a month, undercutting HBO’s $15-a-month charge for the similar HBO Now service. Like HBO, Showtime is offering a 30-day free trial to attract users and is launching its channel on Apple TV before expanding to other platforms. A Showtime app for iOS isn’t available yet, but should be available soon.
Update: The Showtime iOS app is now available, as well.
A new report from The New York Times has thrown cold water on the collection of reports suggesting that a new Apple TV would debut at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) next week. According to “people briefed on the device,” Apple had considered announcing the new Apple TV as recently as mid-May, but has now decided to delay the announcement as the product is “not ready to be demonstrated.” The report goes on to note that in addition to possible delays with the hardware and developer tool kit, Apple’s content deals for a new streaming television service may also not be ready for an announcement at this time. Plans for the new set-top box appear to have been merely delayed, however, and Apple still seems to be actively pursuing the release of new Apple TV hardware with a new app platform to go along with it.
CBS Corp. is expected to very soon announce a deal to bring a standalone version of Showtime to Apple TV, Variety reports. The move to provide a broadband-only option for accessing Showtime content follows the HBO Now roll out to Apple TV back in April, although the pricing and official name for Showtime’s new service is still unclear. Apple is an exclusive partner for HBO Now’s $15-a-month standalone service for the time being, but industry sources say CBS will be expanding its independent Showtime offering to other partners shortly after announcing its deal with Apple.
A new support document confirms the long-standing rumor that Apple TVs (third-generation or later) will allow users to control HomeKit devices using Siri even when they’re away from home. Devices running iOS 8.1 or later will be able to control HomeKit devices locally after downloading an app for each family of devices and entering a unique HomeKit code. After setup, Siri will be able to control the HomeKit products inside the house, but the iOS device may need to be unlocked when giving commands to certain products. For Siri to control a user’s home remotely, the same Apple ID will have to be logged in on the user’s iOS device and an Apple TV running software version 7.0 or later. For HomeKit devices to be grouped, they’ll need to be configured through the same third-party app before Siri can control them as a unit. The document includes a link to HomeKit compatible products and instructions for reconfiguring your HomeKit settings if you move or lose the device you use for control. Notably, Siri can’t be used to unlock your door, presumably for safety purposes.
Apple has added another new channel, NatGeo TV, to Apple TV today. As one might surmise, NatGeo TV is a National Geographic channel for Apple’s set-top box. The channel includes a number of clips and shows — some episodes require cable authentication, but at first glance, the channel appears to offer more free content than many other “cable channels” on Apple TV. Apple TV users will also notice the Apple Events channel has returned to Apple TV’s main menu, in advance of next Monday’s Apple WWDC keynote.
Apple won’t be unveiling its subscription TV service next week at WWDC, Re/code reports. The company wanted to launch the new service in early fall to coincide with the new broadcast TV season, but necessary licensing deals aren’t yet finalized, according to several people with knowledge of the situation. Apple wants to provide customers in cities around the U.S. with local broadcast programming to set its service apart from those already available from Dish and Sony, but obtaining the rights to local shows and developing the technology to deliver them has proven time-consuming. CBS CEO Les Moonves has indicated his network will likely sign with Apple, but money is still a sticking point. Industry executives predict Apple’s TV service won’t launch until late this year or in 2016.
Apple is endeavoring to include access to programming from local TV stations as part of its new streaming television service, Re/Code reports; a move which may delay the launch that was originally expected to occur later this year. The move would help to significantly distinguish Apple’s streaming televisions offering from rival companies, most of which only offer major network programming and in some cases local programming in select major cities. Industry executives who are familiar with Apple’s plans have revealed that the company is looking to provide much more widespread access to programming from local broadcast stations in “cities around the U.S.” However, the move is said to have complicated negotiations with networks due to the varied ownership, affiliate, and franchise system in place between broadcasters and local stations.
The report notes that past attempts to secure rights for showing local programming and commercials can be time consuming, citing the example of ABC’s two-year quest to get the rights to show live programming in its Watch ABC app, with the resultant programming still limited to viewers in only eight cities. Infrastructure concerns are also noted, with many local affiliates not presently having the necessary streaming capabilities in place. Industry executives have also noted that they “don’t believe Apple has signed any TV programmers up” for the new service, making an announcement at this year’s WWDC very unlikely. Despite these hurdles, TV executives who are in talks with Apple are reportedly optimistic that the service will eventually launch, with money being the most significant hurdle, rather than technical limitations.
Apple shelved its plans to produce a television set “more than a year ago,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The idea was abandoned “after nearly a decade of research.” Investor Carl Icahn said he expects to see an ultra-high-definition TV coming from Apple in 2016, but people familiar with the matter said Apple executives pulled the plug on a TV project after finding little in the way of breakthrough features to add to a product that would be entering an already crowded and competitive market. An ultra-high-definition screen and video calling features didn’t meet Apple’s standards for entering a new product area, where Apple typically likes to be able to provide innovative technology and easier-to-use software. While both Steve Jobs and current CEO Tim Cook have expressed an interest in TV, Apple’s focus has turned to redesigning the Apple TV and creating its own cable TV streaming service.
Apple is currently working on a “Find my Watch” feature for Apple Watch, according to a 9to5Mac report. The feature would allow users to track the location of a Watch, or lock or swipe it remotely. It’s been noted recently that as it currently stands, Apple Watch lacks any meaningful anti-theft features. Reportedly, Apple will use “smart leashing” to implement Find my Watch — the Watch will send a signal to “establish its location native to the iPhone.” The report notes these features “could be farther off than others in development.” Some other future Apple Watch features noted in the report include a number of health and fitness additions — a blood pressure monitor and sleep tracking seem closest — and third-party watch face widgets known, strangely, as “Complications.” A new Watch OS could include Twitter Complications.
The report also has a few Apple TV details. Internal next-gen Apple TV prototypes are roughly “twice as large” as the current Apple TV, with the finished product expected to be thinner than the current set-top box. Also, a new version of XCode will include a “TVKit” SDK, which will allow developers to build third-party Apple TV apps. It’s still expected that Apple will debut the new Apple TV next month.
WWE Network comes to Apple TV in UK, Ireland; Australia, Japan and Scandinavia also get new channels
The WWE Network is now available to Apple TV users in the United Kingdom and Ireland. WWE’s channel requires a subscription to access pay-per-view content and the network’s on demand library. WWE Network launched on Apple TV in the U.S. last year. Bandai appeared yesterday on Apple TVs in Japan and Australian users picked up Stan, a channel with localized movies, TV shows and children’s programming. Users in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark now have access to Viaplay, which features local sports content, movies and TV shows. U.S. and Canadian users received new channels last week. [via 9to5 Mac]
In addition to the CBS Sports and USA Now channels added to the Apple TV in the U.S., Canadian users are getting a nice bonus with the addition of Bell’s CraveTV and Rogers and Shaw’s Shomi streaming TV services. Similar to Hulu in the U.S., CraveTV and Shomi are designed to provide domestic alternatives to Netflix, albeit with a stronger focus on television content than movies. CraveTV is available to existing Bell subscribers for an additional $4/month while Shomi charges $9/month for non-Rogers and Shaw subscribers while including the service for free in most cable TV and Internet packages. Apple TV is one of the first third-party set-top boxes to get support for either of the new services; CraveTV was previously only available on Bell’s own Fibe receivers, while Shomi has up until now been limited to Rogers/Shaw cable boxes and the Xbox. Both services also continue to provide web-based playback and iOS apps for portable device playback.
Apple TV has gained two more channels today, as CBS Sports and USA Now have been added to the main menu. CBS Sports offers free clips from a number of shows — mostly sports discussion — which can be sorted by show or sport. USA Now also offers free clips from shows on the USA Network, but cable authentication is required to view full episodes. These two new channels follow another recent addition, NBC Sports Live Extra, which debuted last week.
The Apple TV remote is getting a touchpad when Apple debuts the new Apple TV this summer, The New York Times reports. An employee briefed on the product said the remote will have two physical buttons and the touchpad, which will be used for scrolling. The new remote will also be thicker than the previous model. Apple declined comment.
Google has announced that the YouTube app will cease to function starting in May for iOS devices running an OS older than iOS 7 — this likely refers to the older Apple-developed YouTube app that was discontinued in iOS 6. The change also impacts second-generation and older Apple TV units, which won’t be able to access YouTube starting in May unless Apple chooses to provide a software update for the older model. Users of the YouTube app on these older devices are already seeing a video notifying them of the change, but the app is still functional for now. In early May, users will only see the notification video, and will be unable to access any video content through the app. Google’s support page has directed users of older iOS versions to visit YouTube’s mobile site to view videos. Notably, Google’s official YouTube app for iOS remains listed as compatible with “iOS 6.0 or later”, so it’s unclear why iOS 6 users may be unable to access YouTube unless Google simply plans to drop iOS 6 support in the native iOS app.
Disney is putting pressure on Apple to carry more Disney-owned channels on its upcoming streaming television service, a new report from The Street reveals. The two companies are reportedly in negotiations regarding what content will be carried on the new service, expected to debut as early as this fall, with the issue of how many Disney channels Apple will be required to carry apparently forming a key point in the discussions. The report cites people with knowledge of the talks who have revealed that Disney is pushing Apple to take most — if not all — of its channels, including Disney, ESPN, and several spinoff channels, while Apple is trying to limit the amount of content carried in order to keep the price of its service down. Apple reportedly is hoping to formally announce the service in June, along with a list of content partners, with the service expected to be priced at $30-$40 per month for a 25-channel offering.
The much-anticipated HBO Now channel has been added to Apple TV. While the streaming standalone service costs $15 a month, a 30-day free trial is currently being offered. HBO Now iPhone and iPad apps should be appearing in the very near future.
Update: The HBO Now iOS app has also launched.
Apple’s next Apple TV won’t support 4K video streams when it hits store shelves later this year, Buzzfeed reports. With limited 4K programming available and few consumers with 4K-capable TVs or Internet connections, Apple isn’t putting effort into meeting the increased requirements of streaming 4K video until the higher resolution format becomes more commonplace. “4K is great, but it’s still in its infancy,” said one source described as “familiar with Apple’s thinking.” Apple declined to comment.