Apple has gotten its hands on cable TV networks in a fashion — announcing that HBO Go and WatchESPN are now available directly on Apple TV set-tops — but the services are available only to subscribers of participating pay-TV affiliates.
In addition, Apple added three other new content providers to the Apple TV lineup: Sky News, Crunchyroll and Qello. Previous partners for the set-top include Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, MLB, NBA, NHL, Vimeo and Flickr.
“HBO Go and WatchESPN are some of the most popular iOS apps and are sure to be huge hits on Apple TV,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior veep of Internet software and services, said in a statement. “We continue to offer Apple TV users great new programming options, combined with access to all of the incredible content they can purchase from the iTunes Store.”
Currently, DirecTV and Charter Communications are the two exceptions among pay TV providers that will not allow customers to access HBO Go via Apple TVs. (A DirecTV rep said access on the box will be available “soon.”)
HBO Go, available to virtually all other cable, satellite or telco TV customers who subscribe to the premium service, provides original series, movies, sports, documentaries and other programming. Earlier this year, HBO’s authenticated service became viewable on Apple TVs in a workaround through AirPlay, which streams media from iPads or iPhones.
Disney/ABC’s WatchESPN on Apple TV provides live access to select programming from ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3 and ESPN Buzzer Beater/Goal Line — also available only to those who receive ESPN’s networks as part of their video subscription from affiliated providers. Satcasters DirecTV and Dish Network are the two biggest pay TV providers that do not offer access to WatchESPN.
Apple says it has sold more than 13 million of the $99 Internet-connected set-top boxes to date, about half of which shipped in 2012.
Apple TV has mostly been a “learning experience” for bigger plans the company has to reinvent the TV category, CEO Tim Cook said at an industry conference last month. The company has been long rumored to be developed an integrated broadband-connected TV.
With WatchESPN’s launch on Apple TV, the cabler’s service will for the first time provide on-demand video, including highlights and news clips from ESPN.com and short-form segments from programs such as “E:60,” “Outside The Lines,” and “SC Featured.” In addition, videos published under the “Featured” tab of the WatchESPN app on Apple TV will highlight recent live and on-demand sports content.
In addition to the streaming-video services, Apple TV users have access to 60,000 movies and over 230,000 TV episodes, available on an a la carte basis, plus songs through the iTunes Store. According to Apple, iTunes customers have downloaded more than 1 billion TV episodes and 380 million movies from iTunes to date, and they are purchasing over 800,000 TV episodes and over 350,000 movies per day.
This fall, Apple will launch iTunes Radio, a personalized music experience that will be available directly on Apple TV based on listening history and past purchases from iTunes. The free, ad-supported music service will compete with Pandora, Spotify, Google Play Music All Access and others.
Watch HBO’s video promo for HBO Go on Apple TV: