Apple's "TV App" Is Almost Useless

I'm really trying here.

We're ALL-IN with cord-cutting via Apple TV.

We've dropped DirecTV, and we signed up for both DirecTV Now AND Sony Playstation Vue.

(editors note: Head to Head Review coming tomorrow!)

And now Apple has given us their TV app!

We'll give it a few weeks.... but so far, calling this a half-measure would be kind.

It's a tentative first step - but right now, it may be a Ping-level failure to launch.

OK, Apple. I get the idea.

Apple hasn't been able to get the world's content providers to go along with an Apple-branded streaming TV service.

AND, the proliferation of app squares on the AppleTV was starting to get a bit ridiculous.

No one wants to scroll through 80 tiles of channels, games, and whatnot to find "HGTV".

So, they decided to create a front-end for optimal presentation of content from OTHER services.

One beautiful interface, seamlessly synthesizing all of the TV content from your various subscriptions.

And that would be great.... if the TV app (hereinafter "TV") had access to the ANY of the content that people cared about.

Is "TV" a Comprehensive "Guide" to live TV streams & on-demand content?

Absolutely not. That would have been cool.

Does "TV" have access to my live Sony Vue channels?


Does "TV" have access to my live DirecTV NOW channels?


In fact, "TV" doesn't show any live-tv information at all. It's STRICTLY for on-demand content.

So if you fire up "TV" during the the Super Bowl.... you won't see the big game mentioned anywhere.

You're going to see a full-page splash screen about the episode of Jimmy Kimmel or Quantico you watched last week, and suggestions that you might like The Walking Dead.

To be clear - The new generation of live-TV cord-cutting services are THE best thing to come to AppleTV since its original development.

You should be able to set your AppleTV to launch Vue or DirecTV Now at startup, as the default. They are that good.

An ideal AppleTV would work like this:

  • Turn on the AppleTV, and immediately see the last channel you were on, live, on PS Vue. 
  • Click the menu button and see the "TV" front page - with things that are on now, and available to stream, that you might like - and an option to show a guide, for what's on every channel. 
  • Click the menu button again, and see your tvOS app tiles. 

Instead, "TV" does the exactly the opposite.

It puts a new layer of useless UI between the viewer and the killer live-TV app they're paying for.  

OK, so it shows all of the ON-DEMAND content AVAILABLE on Vue and DirecTV now?


Not really.

It shows on-demand content that is currently available - but only on channels which:

1) have a standalone tvOS app...
2) which you have a subscription (or participating cable provider) for...
3) that you've already downloaded, and...
4) which have agreed to cooperate with the "TV" app.

At this point, many - but not all - channels have TV Everywhere tvOS apps.
Of those, a handful have agreed to play nice with "TV".

Does TV show my Netflix content?

No. Not really.

It WILL offer up that more episodes/seasons of a show are available in Netflix, and offer a link.

But Netflix content will not show up in the "TV" suggestions on the splash screen.

Which is ironic - because "TV" is basically trying to BE Netflix, for television content. It tracks what you have watched, and offers up content you may like.

Now, for whatever it's worth to you, Hulu IS a "TV"-friendly app. Amazon, of course, is not.

So Why Would I Use "TV"? 

You.... well, you probably won't.

"TV" has one primary selling point - it aggregates content from a decent number of the individual channel apps you've paid for, and provides viewing suggestions in a relatively slick interface.

It shows me the movies that I might like - and can watch for free - because they're currently airing on HBO or FXX or some such. I didn't know "The Hateful Eight" was on FX! That's a good value!

But if you're a Vue/DTV Now subscriber like I am, you'll likely glance at "TV" on your way to the primary home screen for a few weeks... and then go into Settings to re-map the TV button to the AppleTV home screen.

Simply put, until "TV" incorporates live-TV information from Sling/Vue/DirecTV Now, there isn't THAT much of a point to it existing.

For the time being, "TV" is just in the way, when I'm trying to get to Vue.  

The Verdict

Ideally, "TV" will evolve into a centralized hub for all on-line TV content - regardless of the source.

It would be phenomenal to be able to maintain a consistent interface using "TV", while adding and changing between providers as you choose.

But "TV" should NEVER be the first thing you see.

It should not the "home screen" for the AppleTV - especially when its functionality is so limited.

"TV" should be more like the iOS Control Center - a helpful  pop-up menu you can call upon when you need it. Both now, and in the future.


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