During today’s ‘Spring Forward’ event, HBO CEO Richard Plepler, joined Apple CEO Tim Cook on stage to officially announce the exclusive release of HBO’s new HBO Now streaming service on the Apple TV. The service will debut in early April and will be priced at $15/month, and Plepler noted that all you need to get HBO Now is “a broadband connection and an Apple device,” including not only the Apple TV, but also iPhone and iPad users. While HBO previously offered an HBO Go service, this was tied to existing cable or satellite subscribers; the new HBO Now service will be available via direct subscription, providing access to all of HBO’s past, current, and future content, including new releases such as the upcoming season of Game of Thrones, which Plepler noted will be available to those who sign up when the service debuts in April.
Following on earlier rumors that Apple’s new streaming music service may have been ready for a March launch, a new report from 9to5Mac indicates that the new service likely won’t be unveiled until at least June, when the company holds its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Citing music industry sources that have been briefed on Apple’s timeline for the new service, the report confirms that the new iTunes music streaming service is being developed, but notes that the company plans to introduce the new service as a beta at WWDC in early June.
The same report also notes that Apple is still working on a new Apple TV as well, which is expected to be a slimmer set-top box with an improved remote control and a redesigned operating system. It’s also expected that Apple will introduce an App Store with the redesigned OS — a feature which has been long-awaited by many Apple TV users. Apple had apparently hoped to debut the new Apple TV as early as this month, however, the company is still experiencing issues negotiating with content providers.
Apple is in talks with HBO about launching its new “HBO Now” streaming video service on the Apple TV, International Business Times reports. HBO is apparently working with partner Major League Baseball Advanced Media to launch the standalone web service in April, tied in with the premiere of the fifth season of “Game of Thrones.” Unlike HBO’s prior streaming offerings, HBO Now will be available for purchase directly from the company, rather than requiring the user to have an account with a cable or satellite provider. It’s expected that it will launch at a retail price of $15/month, which is in line with the current HBO pricing through traditional providers. While HBO and Apple are in talks about having HBO Now available on the Apple TV, it’s not expected that this will be an exclusive deal, and the service is likely to also be available on other devices such as Roku, Xbox, PlayStation and other platforms.
In an unusual move, Apple has released a new beta of iOS 8.3 to registered developers, alongside the fifth beta of iOS 8.2 seeded last week. This latest beta features a build number of 12F5027d, and includes extremely sparse release notes noting some minor issues with CarPlay and WatchKit. The parallel release of this newer iOS beta suggests that iOS 8.2 has likely reached a freeze point and will be released soon, while Apple wants to allow developers to get an early start on working with the new iOS 8.3 development environment as soon as possible. Notably, this latest version is also accompanied by an Xcode 6.3 beta that incorporates version 1.2 of the new Swift development language, noting “a number of noteworthy changes to the language” as well as a migrator for moving existing code to Swift 1.2 and “enhancements that ease interoperability between Swift and Objective-C code.”
Apple may be planning to provide its own pay TV service, according to a new report by Re/code. The company is reportedly in talks with TV programmers in an effort to negotiate deals that would allow them to provide an enhanced paid television service similar to initiatives by Dish and Sony. Although it has been rumored for years that Apple was trying to reinvent the way television service was delivered, it seems this new tactic is for the company to essentially offer its own version of a TV service in order to properly control the interface and user experience. Talks are said to be in the early stages, so there is no information on pricing or timing, neither of which have likely even been decided yet. Apple declined to comment.
Apple has released the fifth beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers, featuring a build number of 12D5480a. As with other recent betas, this latest one appears to be primarily focused on continuing to refine the development environment for preparing apps for the upcoming debut of the Apple Watch. This latest beta is also accompanied by a beta version of updated software for the third-generation Apple TV.
Apple TV has added a new channel, 120 Sports, to its menu. Just like the existing iOS app and website, 120 Sports provides free sports videos without any required subscription, concentrating on highlights, interviews, and discussion. So far, the new channel has a small number of available videos about recent sports news.
Apple TV has added four more channels to its lineup, including Dailymotion, Fusion, The Scene, and UFC.TV. For the first time, the new channel icons are now marked “New” on the Apple TV’s home screen. Dailymotion offers video content similarly to its website, Fusion is a channel featuring content from the Fusion TV network, The Scene is a Conde Nast channel offering short videos from a number of its publications, and UFC.TV is a channel for fans of Ultimate Fighting Championship — it requires a subscription. Additionally, Apple TV has also updated its YouTube channel.
In addition to the new (PRODUCT)RED app collection announced earlier today, Apple has released information on the Product(RED) iTunes Gift Cards that it will be giving out with qualifying purchases on Black Friday, with a percentage of each Gift Card donated to the (RED) Global Fund. Qualifying products include the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, all iPad Air and iPad mini models, iPod touch, iPod nano, Apple TV, all current iMac and MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models, and Beats Headphones and Speakers. iPhone and iPad buyers will receive a $50 gift card, Mac buyers a $100 card, and iPod, Apple TV, and Beats buyers will receive a $25 card. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus purchases are limited to two gift cards per household, as are iPad Air and iPad mini purchases. [via MacRumors]
Apple has quietly added a new CBS News channel to the Apple TV, providing free access to the CBSN streaming news channel launched earlier today by the television network for U.S. Apple TV users. The channel also allows viewers to access on-demand content from CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning, 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, Sunday Morning, and Face the Nation. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple CEO Tim Cook was interviewed at the Wall Street Journal’s inaugural WSJD Live conference in California last night where he talked about Apple’s latest initiatives and directions, including Apple Pay and Apple Watch. Cook described last week’s Apple Pay launch as very successful; more than one million credit cards were activated in the first 72 hours, and Visa noted that more credit cards have been activated in Apple Pay than in all other contactless payments combined. Cook also noted that he’d be talking with Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba about a possible Apple Pay partnership “later this week.”
Regarding Apple Watch, Cook was a bit evasive on the battery life question, reiterating a previous claim that Apple “think[s] people are going to use it so much you will end up charging it daily,” and that the key to Apple Watch was that it needs “to look really cool” as opposed to being “geeky.” Cook also touched on Apple’s involvement in the TV marketplace, stating that “We are living in the 1970s” when it comes to the television paradigm, and suggesting that Apple is working on something in this area, although he once again declined to go into specifics beyond saying “that there can be something great done in the space.” Asked about the discontinuation of the iPod classic, Cook noted that Apple could no longer get the parts for the existing 2009 model, and huge engineering would have been required to update it, which wasn’t worth it in light of small consumer demand. Cook also said that Apple would continue to go as low as it could on iPhone prices while “maintaining the customer experience.”
Apple has added quietly added two more new content channels to the Apple TV: Hallmark Cards’ Feeln network and A&E’s FYI network. Feeln provides access to “family-friendly movies, documentaries, and short films” while FYI “features lifestyle programming, with a mix of reality, culinary, home renovation and makeover series.” The new channels appear to be available only to Apple TV users in the U.S. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has filed a patent application titled “Browsing remote content using a native user interface,” describing ways in which an iOS application could serve as a second screen controller for an Apple TV. In contrast to Apple’s existing Remote app, this design would present the user with a more full-featured Apple TV or iTunes interface. The specific interface would be determined by the Apple TV and simply rendered by the iOS application in a manner appropriate to its own screen, effectively allowing for the UI to be presented in a variety of different ways appropriate to the content being browsed, searched for, or viewed. The patent application also suggests that users could simultaneously control the media device and search for or browse information from other sources “not available to the media device,” such as the web, and transmit information from the remote to the Apple TV — for example, users could visit an external web page featuring trivia for a movie currently being viewed, and then send that information back to be displayed on the Apple TV. The application also suggests ways in which iCloud or “other network-accessed sources” could store information or user interface templates specific to different devices, and ways to sync such information across multiple devices.
Sky Entertainment has augmented its Now TV streaming service for Apple TV for users in the UK, going beyond Sky Sports to add access to Sky Movies and Sky Entertainment. As of now, Sky customers can select from three packages, with Movies and Entertainment requiring a monthly fee and Sports available on an individual 24 hour pass basis. Sky has announced that it will increase the price of its Movies and Entertainment packages next month by £1-£2.
A recent change to Apple’s release notes for the Apple TV Software Update 7.0 indicates that iOS 8’s new Peer-to-Peer AirPlay feature will actually be limited to the “Rev A” third-generation Apple TV released in March 2013. Peer-to-Peer AirPlay is a new feature that allows users to wirelessly stream content to an Apple TV from an iOS 8 device or Mac running OS X Yosemite without having to connect to a host Wi-Fi network.
This is the first time a feature was added solely to this model, and not to earlier, supposedly identical 1080p Apple TVs. The newest Apple TV model was quietly released by Apple last year with relatively minor internal upgrades, and at the time Apple said these component changes would not affect any product features. Further, Apple’s Identifying Apple TV models support document still lists both third-generation models as essentially one class of device that was introduced in “Early 2012.” While it’s unclear why Peer-to-Peer AirPlay would be limited to only the Rev A model, it’s worth noting that we have already noted some wireless performance differences in our testing between the original third-generation Apple TV and the “Rev A” model when running the latest 7.0 software update.
Apple has added the FXNOW channel to Apple TV. It was reported in July that FXNOW would be arriving on Apple’s set-top box in the next 12 months — that time has already come. FXNOW is the on-demand service for FX, FXX, and FXM, and as such, the channel features a number of FX shows, and a surprising amount of popular movies, as well. Authentication of a cable subscription is required to access the content.
Apple TV Software 7.0 has been released for the third-generation Apple TV, bringing a new Beats Music channel to the set-top box. As in the case of the iOS app, the Beats Music channel prompts users to sign in or get started on a 14-day free trial. The software update also includes the flatter, redesigned look we previously detailed when the software was in its fourth beta. As seen in that beta, support for Family Sharing and iCloud Photos have also been added to Apple TV. Additionally, the 720p Apple TV received a new update, 6.2.1, which has none of the new UI changes.
More new channels have been added to Apple TV, this time in Scandinavia. SVT Play has been added as a channel in Sweden, and NRK has been added for Apple TV users in Norway. SVT Play is a free service offering on-demand and live television, including sports, news, drama, documentaries, and children’s shows. NRK is a Norwegian public broadcaster now offering 40,000 shows on demand through Apple TV. Earlier today, Apple added Showtime Anytime to Apple TV in the U.S. and brought back its iTunes Festival channel, as well. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has just added the Showtime Anytime channel to Apple TV, following its reintroduction of the iTunes Festival channel. The new channel is basically Showtime’s version of HBO Go — it’s been available on the App Store for some time. Showtime Anytime has on-demand content and live streams of Showtime East and Showtime West for authenticated TV subscribers. Some free full episodes of Showtime shows are even available without cable or satellite authentication. Interestingly, the channel’s name may scroll from right to left when it’s selected, as there are too many characters to fit all at once with the 720p version of the Apple TV. No scrolling is evident on later 1080p Apple TV models.
The iTunes Festival channel has reappeared on Apple TV, not long before the festival kicks off in London. Apple’s iTunes Festival starts September 1 and runs through the whole month. As has been the case previously, the channel will let users watch live HD streaming video of the performances, as well as on-demand recordings after performances have ended. New acts, including Mary J. Blige, deadmau5, and Ed Sheeran, were recently added to the schedule. Currently, only two days of the festival have acts yet to be announced, as the schedule is mostly set.