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Starz launches subscription app for iOS, Apple TV

STARZ has launched the STARZ Play app for iOS devices and Apple TV, offering a standalone subscription to cord cutters for $9 a month and free access to existing cable subscribers. The app allows up to four users to watch simultaneously, supports universal search through the Siri remote and is the first premium cable app to allow full download rights “for most titles.” Which titles are exempted isn’t clearly specified.

Apple formally unveils tvOS 9.2 update

Apple has officially announced the availability of tvOS 9.2, a new feature update for the company’s fourth-generation Apple TV. First released to developers in January, tvOS 9.2 adds several new features for Apple TV users, including support for using Siri for dictation into text fields — including speaking or spelling out passwords — as well as for searching the tvOS App Store. The update also adds the ability to organize apps into home screen folders, similar to the folder implementation on iOS devices, support for Live Photos taken on the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and new iPhone SE, and the ability to access a user’s entire iCloud Photo Library from the set-top box. tvOS 9.2 is expected to be available later today.

Apple releases Apple Events app on Apple TV for Monday’s event

In advance of Monday’s event, Apple has released its Apple Events channel as a standalone tvOS app for the new fourth-generation Apple TV. While the app doesn’t yet appear to be prominently featured on the tvOS App Store, it can be located via search, and provides functionality similar to the built-in app that automatically appeared on prior-generation Apple TVs.

With the new App Store model, Apple will presumably no longer be “pushing” the Apple Events app to the fourth-generationApple TV home screen — users will have to go and download it specifically if they want to watch Apple events live. Notably, prior generation Apple TV models do not appear to have the Apple Events channel available as of yet; it’s unclear whether Apple intends to exclude these devices from the stream, or whether the channel is simply yet to appear at some point before Monday’s event.

Apple TV gets exclusive split screen feature for NCAA March Madness

The NCAA has announced that Apple TV users will have the exclusive ability to watch two March Madness games at once through the March Madness Live app. While the app is available on competing platforms like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, the split screen feature is only open to Apple TV owners. Users will be able to download the app from the App Store starting March 10 and begin watching coverage on March 13, the day dubbed Selection Sunday, when teams are chosen to participate in the tournament. The app will allow a temporary preview period giving free access to live streaming, but viewers will need a valid cable subscription login to watch through the app after that brief free period expires.

Report: Apple not bidding for NFL Thursday Night Football rights

Apple does not plan on bidding for the digital streaming rights to the NFL Thursday Night Football package, Re/code reports. The NFL sent out a requests for proposal (RFP) to several major digital media players back in December, offering non-exclusive rights to stream the entire Thursday Night Football package online. While earlier reports suggested Apple was planning to put in a bid, it now appears that Apple has decided to bow out of the bidding process on the basis that the sports package would not be enough to set the Apple TV or any future streaming media service apart from the competition. Other companies, including Facebook, Amazon, Verizon, and Yahoo, are reportedly still interested and will likely submit bids. No information or even speculation is available on what the digital rights package will sell for, however the report notes that NBC and CBS each paid $225 million to air the Thursday Night games on their television networks, a deal that also gives them the rights to stream those games on their own online platforms.

 

Apple releases session videos from Apple TV Tech Talks

Apple has now published the session videos from its Apple TV Tech Talks, a series of events the company held in various cities over the past few months to help aspiring developers build and design apps for the new fourth-generation Apple TV. The talks opened in Toronto on Dec. 7, 2015 and ran through eight more cities before finishing up in Sydney earlier this month. The sessions covered tvOS, the capabilities of the new Apple TV, general app and user interface development and a deeper dive into graphics, gaming, and media streaming applications. The complete set of eleven session videos can be streamed or downloaded from the Apple TV Tech Talks Videos page, along with transcripts of the sessions, related documentation, sample code, and other resources.

Apple releases iOS 9.3 beta 4, tvOS 9.2 beta 4, watchOS 2.2 beta 4 to developers

Apple has released three of its latest betas to developers today with iOS 9.3 beta 4, tvOS 9.2 beta 4, and watchOS 2.2 beta 4. The public version of iOS 9.3 beta 4 will likely also be released later this week. We’ll update our iOS and tvOS “Inside the betas” article later on with any relevant information, although changes thus far appear to be minimal, with a cosmetic change to the Night Shift icon in iOS 9.3 beta 4, and new firmware for the Siri Remote.

Apple TV App Store launches app preview feature

Apple has made it possible for Apple TV users to watch previews of the apps available for their device and has encouraged developers to upload app preview videos in a message sent out today. The 15 to 30 second videos are intended to showcase the features, functionality and user interface of an app or game and can be watched by selecting the “preview” button on an app’s product page. Since the feature was just opened to developers, we haven’t spotted any apps that feature a preview yet — not even Apple’s in-house products. Guidelines for recording and submitting previews are available on Apple’s developer site.

Apple releases iOS 9.3 beta 3, tvOS 9.2 beta 3, watchOS 2.2 beta 3 to developers

Apple has released three of its latest betas to developers today with iOS 9.3 beta 3, tvOS 9.2 beta 3, and watchOS 2.2 beta 3. The public version of iOS 9.3 beta 3 should be released later this week. We’ll update our iOS and tvOS “Inside the betas” article later on with any relevant information.

Report: Apple aiming to unveil original, exclusive TV programming by September

Apple may be looking in a new direction in efforts to get its television streaming service off the ground. A new report from The Street reveals that the company has been in talks with Hollywood’s creative community since late last year about producing original TV shows that could be offered exclusively to iTunes customers. While Apple has yet to sign any agreements, two people with knowledge of the matter have suggested that Apple is ideally trying to get deals in place for September so it can announce exclusive content with the unveiling of the iPhone 7. The discussions are reportedly being led by Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, who is effectively the force behind Apple’s entertainment initiatives, with Robert Kondrk, VP of iTunes content, also involved in the talks, according to sources. An Apple spokesperson naturally declined to comment on the matter. It was first reported in September that Apple had interest in creating original programming.

Apple releases tvOS 9.1.1 for Apple TV with Podcasts app

Apple has released a software update to Apple TV with tvOS 9.1.1. The update includes Apple’s Podcasts app for Apple TV, which is placed up top and center once tvOS 9.1.1 has been installed. Other changes within the update likely include minor improvements and bug fixes. While the upcoming tvOS 9.2 update will be a more substantial update, the Podcasts app featured in the 9.2 beta has already made its debut, perhaps earlier than expected. tvOS 9.1.1 is available for download now in Apple TV’s Settings > System > Software Updates.

ESPN president says Apple ‘frustrated’ by lack of progress in developing TV service

It’s still very unclear when Apple’s much-discussed TV service will make its debut on Apple TV, and ESPN president John Skipper mentioned the company’s frustrations in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Skipper said ESPN has “had discussions with Apple” about a streaming TV service. When asked if Apple had a “path to being a player in the TV industry,” Skipper was relatively upbeat, saying the company is “creating a significantly advantageous operating system and a great television experience,” but he also noted that Apple has “been frustrated by their ability to construct something which works for them with programmers.”

While Apple has long been working on its own TV subscription service, the company wasn’t able to ready the service for the debut of the fourth-generation Apple TV last year, and it’s unclear at this point just when such a service may debut. Judging by Skipper’s recent comments — and bolstered by past reports and whispers — it doesn’t appear the service will be ready anytime soon. Apple has recently been linked to both the NFL and Time Warner, but it’s unknown how much interest — if any — Apple has in getting involved with either entity as related to its TV service.

Apple releases iOS 9.3, tvOS 9.2, watchOS 2.2 betas

Apple has simultaneously released new betas for iOS, Apple TV and Apple Watch — iOS 9.3 beta 1, tvOS 9.2 beta 1, and watchOS 2.2 beta 1 are all now available to developers. The new iOS beta is available from the developer center. A public beta will likely be made available in the near future. Apple’s tvOS 9.2 includes the long-awaited addition of Bluetooth keyboard support to Apple TV, while the new iOS and watchOS betas enable the pairing of multiple Apple Watches to one iPhone.

BBC iPlayer app arrives on Apple TV in UK

BBC has launched its iPlayer app for Apple TV in the U.K. According to the BBC, the app features Siri voice search, along with typical playback and search functions. At this point, though, the app doesn’t support subtitles, as Apple doesn’t support the same format used by the BBC. The BBC also notes that it’s working with Apple on making BBC iPlayer shows available via the Apple TV’s search — that may arrive sometime next year.

Cue: Apple is working on ‘Siri Remote’ app for Apple TV

In an interview with BuzzFeed News discussing the success of the new fourth-generation Apple TV, Apple SVP Eddy Cue revealed that the addition of Apple Remote app support in yesterday’s tvOS update may actually just be a stop-gap measure while the company produces an enhanced Remote app for iOS devices. Cue noted that a new Apple TV remote app is in development that will provide “the full functionality of the Siri Remote on your iPhone,” and he expects Apple to release the new updated app in the first half of 2016.

Apple makes its picks for best iPhone, iPad and Apple TV apps of 2015

Apple has released its picks for best apps of 2015. The company picked Periscope (our runner up for App of the Year) as its iPhone App of the Year — calling it a game-changer that “made sharing and watching live videos an instant obsession” — and selected photo editor Enlight and stock-trading app Robinhood as its runners-up. Workflow won Most Innovative app for iPhone, and Instagram’s 3D Touch enhancements won it Best App on iPhone 6s. Lara Croft GO won Best Game of the Year for iPhone for its “beauty and clever design,” with Fallout Shelter and Mr Jump earning runner-up honors. Dark Echo was listed as the Most Innovative iPhone game and “immersive 3D Touch controls” won Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade honors as Best Game on iPhone 6s.

Apple puts plan to offer subscription TV service on hold

After months of unsuccessful negotiations, Apple has suspended its plans to offer a subscription TV service and is refocusing on being a platform for other media companies through the App Store, Bloomberg reports.  During a press conference on Tuesday, CBS CEO Les Moonves said Apple has put its live TV plans “on hold,” and sources with knowledge of the negotiations said Apple’s plan to offer a package of around 14 channels for $30 to $40 a month has stalled over networks’ demands for more money. While Moonves went on to say he’s confident Apple’s TV service “will happen” at some point, the company’s negotiations with TV executives have proven much more difficult than those with music companies, which have been mostly willing to partner with Apple. With cable providers already starting to offer smaller bundles and networks selling their own individual subscriptions through apps available on Apple TV, Apple is facing the prospect of charging more for its service unless it can convince media companies to accept less. Without those agreements in place, Apple is turning to software developers to create new entertainment content in the hopes of setting the latest Apple TV’s App Store apart from similar offerings from Roku, Amazon and Google.

Apple releases tvOS 9.1 with Apple Remote support, Siri for Apple Music

Apple has released tvOS 9.1, the first major update to the company’s new fourth-generation set-top box. While no release notes are yet available, the new update adds support for using Siri voice control with Apple Music, as promised earlier this fall, and the ability to use Apple’s Remote app with the new box, albeit it in a more limited fashion — the Remote app will pair through Home Sharing as with prior-generation Apple TVs, but it is limited to providing touchpad control of the Apple TV user interface and keyboard input into text fields; the ability to browse or navigate content found on prior-generation Apple TVs is not supported in the new model. Even with the tvOS 9.1 update, the new set-top box also still lacks support for external Bluetooth keyboards, although the ability to at least now enter text from an iPhone or iPad keyboard with the Remote app should mitigate this limitation somewhat.

Amazon Instant Video app could hit Apple TV ‘within a few weeks’

According to an Amazon customer service reply, an app for Amazon Instant Video could be landing on Apple TV “within a few weeks.” The unnamed company representative supposedly told Twitter user Dan Bostonweeks that the company’s technical team is currently working on the tvOS app and expressed optimism that it would launch soon, since the company has “already succeeded in developing an app for the iPhone and iPad.” Other users have received similar messages from Amazon about the tvOS app, but this is the first that included even a rough timetable for launch. Amazon’s Instant Video has been the largest noticeable absence on Apple TV for some time, with other services like Netflix and Hulu having long been available. Amazon also banned sales of the new Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast device on its site in an apparent bid to drive users away from those devices.

DisneyLife subscription-based app launches in the U.K.

Disney has launched the subscription-based app DisneyLife for U.K. residents ahead of a planned global roll out, offering unlimited access to movies, shows, music, books, and more for £9.99 a month. The service provides unlimited streaming within the U.K. and downloads that expire after 30 days without an Internet connection. Users running the app on Apple devices with iOS 8 or iOS 9 installed can stream HD content, but videos downloaded for offline viewing aren’t available in HD. While there’s no native Apple TV version of the app, content from the app is supported on Apple TV through AirPlay with one catch: All audio and video is streamed in standard definition.

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