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Amazon launches Amazon Fire TV

At a media event today, Amazon introduced Amazon Fire TV ($99), a streaming box designed to compete with Apple TV. Citing search, laggy performance, and closed ecosystems as issues with similar products on the market, Amazon’s Peter Larsen says the company sought to address those issues.

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The box has a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi for fast downloads. Larsen claims it’s three times as fast as Apple TV and other boxes. Many apps are supported, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and of course, Amazon Prime. The included remote control supports voice search with a built-in microphone. fireTV also supports games with the physical remote, an upcoming app, or the Fire game controller ($40). It’ll begin shipping today.

WSJ: Apple talking with Comcast about streaming TV

Apple is talking with Comcast about working together on a streaming television service that would use an Apple set-top box like Apple TV, the Wall Street Journal reports. The deal would use Comcast’s cables to bypass web congestion, sources said. Using Comcast as a partner would, ideally, prevent buffering and other service issues that often plague streaming web video. Apple seeks to let users stream live and on-demand TV shows stored in the cloud, thus replacing a traditional cable box.

The report claims that at the moment, Apple and Comcast “aren’t close” to an agreement. Comcast would have to make “significant investments” in network equipment and other technology, while the two companies seem to disagree on which would control customer data — Apple wants people to sign on to the device using its Apple IDs, and the company is asking for a cut of the monthly subscription fees paid by customers. It’s noted that Apple was working on a deal with Time Warner Cable since mid-2012; Comcast’s deal to acquire Time Warner is currently being reviewed by regulators.

Apple TV adds ACC Sports channel

Apple has added an ACC Sports channel to Apple TV. The channel offers game highlights, interviews, insider reports, player profiles and more on Atlantic Coast Conference athletics.

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NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament previews are also included in a Campus Insiders section. Like other recent channel additions, the ACC Sports channel appears automatically on the main page without a software update.

Apple TV 6.1 update released, allows users to hide channels

Along with today’s release of iOS 7.1, Apple has released a software update for Apple TV. In addition to other changes, version 6.1 of the Apple TV software now allows users to hide channels from the main menu. The changes can be made in Settings > Main Menu, or straight from the main menu by holding down the center button and pressing play.

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The tweak should make it easier for users to navigate the main menu by hiding the channels to which they have no access or interest. We’ll update with any other significant findings.

Apple TV adds iTunes Festival channel

Apple added an iTunes Festival channel to Apple TV this weekend, ahead of its upcoming SXSW concert series. While SXSW kicked off March 6, the iTunes Festival will begin Tuesday with Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, and London Grammar. Other acts to perform at Apple’s first U.S.-based iTunes Festival include Kendrick Lamar, Willie Nelson, and Soundgarden.

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The channel will stream the concerts live when the festival begins. But for now, the channel only has basic information about the performers and the festival, with links to the musicians’ albums in iTunes.

Cook: Apple TV earned $1B revenue in 2013

Speaking at Apple’s annual shareholders meeting today, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple TV made more than $1 billion of revenue in 2013. Cook has often referred to the set-top box as a “hobby,” but said today, “It’s a little more difficult to call it a hobby these days.” The news comes amid a recently announced deal on current Apple TV models that has fueled speculation regarding an upcoming Apple TV hardware update. Cook also said during the meeting that 40 billion iMessages are sent daily, along with 15 to 20 million FaceTime calls. [via Reuters]

Apple offers $25 gift with Apple TV, new hardware coming?

Apple retail employees have been told that anyone who purchases an Apple TV from Apple will receive a free $25 gift card starting today and ending March 5, iLounge has confirmed. Atypical for Apple, this promotion increases the likelihood that new Apple TV hardware is on the way in the near future.

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Apple typically offers such deals to clear inventory before the release of a new product, so it’s possible a new Apple TV will be on the way in March or April. [via 9to5Mac]

TV4 Play added to Apple TV in Sweden

Apple has added a new TV4 Play channel to Apple TV in Sweden. Swedish network TV4 announced the addition to Apple TV, along with pricing tiers and features.

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For free, users can can watch some live broadcasts, and shows for 7 days after broadcast. A premium tier adds some live sports and removes commercial breaks, while the premium sports tier adds even more live sports, including the Swedish Hockey League and various world soccer leagues. [via 9to5Mac]

WWE Network launches on Apple TV

As expected, the WWE Network has launched on Apple TV today. The new network from World Wrestling Entertainment can be purchased with an iTunes account.

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It costs $60 for a six-month WWE subscription on Apple TV, as opposed to $10 per month on other platforms. WWE Network features streaming content 24/7, and offers access to all live WWE pay-per-views in addition to a library of on-demand content.

WSJ: Apple scaling back Apple TV plans

Apple attempted to license TV programming for its own service before turning its attention to negotiating with existing TV distributors, the Wall Street Journal reports. A source said Apple could try seeking rights to programming directly in the future, however. A report from Wednesday noted Apple was negotiating with Time Warner Cable to add content to the device, but today Comcast has announced a deal to purchase Time Warner Cable in an all-stock transaction for $45.2 billion, pending regulatory approval. It’s unknown what the merger might do to the negotiations with Apple, but Wednesday’s report noted Apple was having trouble negotiating with Comcast. It’s also unclear whether Apple anticipated the merger. The WSJ reports the Apple TV could come “as early as June,” with one source saying it could be later. Wednesday’s report noted the device could be announced in April for a holiday release.

New Apple TV to debut in April for holiday launch?

Apple will introduce a new Apple TV set-top box “as early as April,” according to Bloomberg. However, Bloomberg also claims Apple is “aiming to have the device available for sale by the Christmas holidays,” though the release date could change pending distribution and programming negotiations. The report notes Apple is working on a deal with Time Warner Cable and other partners to add video content to the device. Such a lengthy amount of time between the announcement and release date would differ greatly from Apple’s usual protocol, especially for an upgrade of an existing product.

New Apple TV device, controller hints found in iOS 7

A reference to new Apple TV hardware has been discovered in iOS 7. The reference is to “AppleTV4,1,” which would be a new Apple TV, as the current Apple TV is referenced internally as “AppleTV3,2.” Though the reference has reportedly been in iOS since iOS 7.0’s release in September, it was only found recently by developer Hamza Sood. Given that the model is shown as part of the existing Apple TV family, it’s likely that the new device will remain a set-top box, with upgraded internal components. The report also notes that new Apple TV software builds make references to iOS 7’s Game Controller framework, suggesting that some game controllers could connect to Apple TV. It’s been reported that Apple has been testing new versions of Apple TV. We previously reported that a coming Apple TV update would add downloadable game support to the platform. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple TV adds The Beatles channel

Apple has added The Beatles channel to Apple TV, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the group’s landmark appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. For a limited time, users can watch the footage from that appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The channel also includes song previews from the Beatles’ “The U.S. Albums,” a 13-album set recently released on iTunes, but not the band’s larger catalog of releases. As a result, many major Beatles albums and tracks are missing from the channel.

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Users have the option of purchasing the songs and albums through the Apple TV. It’s currently unclear how long the channel will be around, and whether it will change forms once the “limited time” Ed Sullivan video is removed.

Apple bulking up Internet infrastructure for more TV content?

Apple is signing long-term deals for more bandwidth as the company builds up its Internet infrastructure, the Wall Street Journal reports. The infrastructure will be “capable of delivering large amounts of content to customers.” Though the WSJ points out Apple could need more bandwidth for existing services such as iCloud, iTunes, and the App Store, the report also notes the infrastructure could handle more traffic if Apple “decides to move deeper into television.” Bill Norton, chief strategy officer for International Internet Exchange, estimates Apple now has the bandwidth to move hundreds of gigabits of data per second. “That’s the starting point for a very, very big network,” he said. It’s possible that Apple is expecting to radically increase the number of Apple TV devices in the marketplace, begin to offer 4K-quality streams, or both.

Apple recently added a new Apple TV page to its online store, fueling speculation that a major update to its “hobby” device will be happening soon. iLounge has reported that games will be a larger part of Apple TV after an update.

WWE Channel coming to Apple TV Feb. 24?

World Wrestling Entertainment has all but confirmed the WWE Network will be coming to Apple TV as a new channel on February 24. In a FAQ post on the WWE Network Facebook page, a fan asked about Apple TV, and a network representative wrote that the WWE Network app would launch “directly” on Apple TV on Feb. 24 — the same day the network launches. If this happens, it would be the first pre-announced channel on Apple TV. WWE Network will cost $10 per month with a six-month commitment, featuring all 12 live WWE pay-per-view events, a WWE video-on-demand library, and more. [via MacRumors]

Report: Apple testing Apple TV with built-in router, TV tuner

Apple is testing upcoming Apple TV versions with an AirPort-style router and built-in TV tuner, 9to5Mac reports. The Apple TV with a router appears to combine the Apple TV and AirPort Express for upgraded bandwidth and video quality for the device, enabling the router to prioritize video stability while doling out data to other devices as needed. Separately, the TV tuner component would allow users to access their television content through an Apple interface, finally bringing to market a feature rumored to be in development at the time of Steve Jobs’ death in 2011. Neither of these features is guaranteed to appear in new Apple TV hardware — but the possibility is there, as prototype versions reportedly exist. The article also backs our earlier report that game support would be a key part of an upcoming Apple TV update; existing iOS devices would be used as controllers, according to the new report.

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The report also notes that Apple has added an Apple TV section to its online store, rather than treating Apple TV as an accessory, hinting at major upcoming changes. Accessories, a Q&A section, AppleCare, and a page for refurbished Apple TVs are all included in the new section.

Apple TV gets Red Bull TV channel

Apple has added a Red Bull TV channel to Apple TV today. The channel offers a variety of extreme and adventure sports programs.

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The channel also has a section for upcoming events.  Red Bull TV’s website gives would-be users a good idea of what to expect from the Apple TV channel.

Reports: Apple TV to add games in coming update

iLounge has heard from reliable industry sources that Apple TV will soon be getting proper game support in an update, likely to come in March or earlier. We’ve heard that developers are currently working on Bluetooth controller options, and it’s expected that games could be downloaded directly to the Apple TV rather than relying on another iOS device as an intermediary. One developer has suggested that game support could be backward-compatible with the current-generation Apple TV. However, it’s unknown what current Apple TVs would use for storage — it’s possible iCloud could be part of a solution. This update would effectively put Apple TV on par with the latest Roku devices, which have already had their own app stores for some time. An Apple TV App Store has been awaited for years.

UK Apple TV users get Sky Sports channel

Apple has added a Sky Sports channel to Apple TV in the U.K. The channel, from Now TV, enables viewers to purchase access to live sporting events on an as-needed basis. To the best of our knowledge, this appears to be the first permanent, international-only Apple TV channel. A Sky Sports Day Pass offers 24 hours of sports coverage from six channels for £9.99. [via Engadget]

Apple TV adds ABC, Bloomberg, Crackle, KORTV

Apple has pushed out another quiet but major content update for the Apple TV, adding four additional channels. While availability of the new content channels varies between countries, U.S. Apple TV users now have access to the ABC television network, Bloomberg, Crackle, and 16 different Korean television channels in KORTV.

The new Bloomberg channel provides streaming access to a variety of programming on business, lifestyle, and politics and allows users to browse by show for on-demand viewing, watch live streams of specific events or breaking news, or search for specific content. The ABC channel provides clips, full episodes and live streaming—though most of the content is locked unless you subscribe to one of a number of participating cable providers. Crackle, previously available as an iOS app, brings Sony’s free online movie and TV show streaming service to the Apple TV. KORTV is a Korean TV network providing access to ten free channels and six premium channels along with video-on-demand content. These new channels appear on the Apple TV without the need for a specific software update, and are available now.

 

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