The biggest disappointment for anyone with an Apple TV in the UK had been the sheer disregard that the UK channels had paid to it, with the exception of the BBC, which made iPlayer available as an app for the 4th generation Apple TV in December 2015. Not one UK channel had built an app for the Apple TV, until now.

In January 2018 Apple finally launched the TV app for the Apple TV (and the iPhone and iPad - read about that here How to use the TV app on iPhone and iPad in the UK). In this article we'll show you how to use the TV app so you can watch content from Netflix, Amazon Prime, ITVHub, My5 and more.

In this article we'll examine what's available for Apple TV in the UK and the best way to watch it.

What is the TV app on Apple TV?

The TV app on the Apple TV doesn’t exactly play content - it acts as a library for content that links you out to other apps where you can watch it - but it is a good way to discover new things to watch on multiple services, including Amazon, iTunes, My5, iPlayer, ITVHub, and - finally added in January 2018 - Netflix.

Using the TV app gives you the advantage of being able to make the decision of where you will watch the film or series, so that you don't accidentally pay to watch something on iTunes when it’s free to watch on Netflix.

We found that using the TV app opened up the Amazon Prime content to us and made it more discoverable - because we already pay for Amazon Prime as a delivery service we weren’t really taking full advantage of the content available there.

The good news is you won't need to install the TV app, it will just appear on your Apple TV - as long as you have a fourth generation or 4K APple TV with the App Store.

How to use the TV app on the Apple TV

As we said above, the TV app is more of a place to find content to watch, rather than somewhere to watch content. So we'll start off by explaining how to use the TV app on the Apple TV to find content.

  1. Select TV
  2. Once in the app you can browse through shows from the following:
    • Best of BBC
    • Best of ITV Hub
    • Best of My 5
    • Children’s favourites
    • New Releases on iTunes
  3. You can also browse by the following categories:
  4. TV Series - within that you can browse by:
    • Comedy, Drama, Reality, Documentary and Sports
    • Kids - within this category is Hit Kids TV Series, Everyday Heros, Cute & Cuddly, Learning is Fun
    • Collections - including Drama, Sci-Fi, Quiz Shows, Travel, Hopster Picks
  5. Choose the programme you want to watch by scrolling to the icon for that programme and pressing the touch pad on the Apple TV Remote.
  6. Once you have found what you want to watch, clicking on the image of the show or movie will take you to a page where you can choose where you'd like to watch the content. See the next step for how to watch somethign in the TV app on Apple TV. (We also have a guide to using the TV app on the iPhone or iPad here.)

If you are using the TV App on your iPhone read this to find out what to do if it no longer autoplays the next video.

How to watch something on the TV app on Apple TV

Once you have found what you want to watch, and clicked on the image of it, you'll be taken to a page about that film or programme.

  1. On that page you’ll see where the programme is available to watch, e.g. My5, Hopster, iTunes, Prime Video.
  2. You can jump to a specific series - the series you want to watch may be available on one service but not another.
  3. Once you've decided where you want to watch the show, select Open In... and then choose the app.
  4. It will open in that specific app, you may need to login to that app if it's not already set up on your Apple TV.

How to find films to watch on the TV app on Apple TV

There are a few ways to find films to watch, including taking inspiration from films you already enjoyed.

  1. From the Home Page of the TV app you can swipe down and click on Films.
  2. You’ll see a collection of Films that Apple has chosen to showcase.
  3. Scroll through these until you see something you’d like to watch, alternatively, choose from one of the, categories including Comedy, Drama, Action and Thriller.
  4. One way to find something you like is to look at a film you know you like and see what other films are recommended as being Related.
  5. Click on that title and you’ll see where it’s available - not just whether it’s in iTunes (which would mean you’d have to pay for it)
  6. Click on Open In and choose where you’d like to watch, e.g. Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes, or if it’s recently been on terrestrial TV, one of the on-demand apps

Because not all the films that are available will be showcased this way, you could search for a film you’d like to watch. In our experience this is the only way a film that’s recently been shown on one of the UK channels will show up, so, for example, search for Point Break (which was on iPlayer at the time this article was written) and iPlayer will come up as an option for watching it.

Use the TV app to see everything you’ve been watching

When you have been using the TV app for a while you’ll notice that there’s a handy Up Next feature if you scroll up to the bottom of the screen that lets you continue watching anything you have recently watched (you may need to click on Continue on this screen at some point in order to allow this feature).

This means that you won’t have to remember what app you were watching the latest bingeworthy series in.

You don’t even have to enter the TV app, you can get a shortcut to these shows and films you are watching from the Home screen, just scrolling to the TV app icon.

If you have a new Apple TV read about how to set up a new Apple TV here.

Which channels do I get on Apple TV?

Not all the UK on-demand channels are available in the TV app on the Apple TV, and neither are all the UK content services. However, some services are still available via the Apple TV.

Now TV is a prime example of this - the app is available for Apple TV but you won't see it in the TV app.

Missing from both the Apple TV and the TV app are: All4 and UKTV Play.

Here we compare what Apple TV offers compared to some of the wide range of TV set top boxes and other services:

Device

All 4

BBC iPlayer

My5

ITV Hub

UKTV Play

Sky

Apple TV

 

Y

        Y

        Y

 

 

Roku

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

 

Amazon Fire

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Google Chromecast

Y

Y

 

Y

 

Y

Sony PlayStation

Y

Y

Y

 

 

Y

Now TV Box

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Y

YouView

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Sky

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Virgin Media

Y

 

Y

Y

Y

 

BT Vision

Y

 

Y

Y

Y

 

Xbox

Y

Y

Y

 

 

Y

Freesat

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

 

Freeview Play

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Channel 4 didn't respond to our enquiries so we've no idea if the All4 app will be coming to the Apple TV.

Read our comparison of all the Apple TV alternatives here.

How to watch All4 content on the Apple TV

So if you want to catch up on TV shows via the TV channel’s On Demand app how can you do so on an Apple TV?

  1. Turn on your Apple TV.
  2. Download the All4 app from the App Store on your iPhone.
  3. Open the app on your iPhone or iPad and find the programme you want to watch, don’t play yet.
  4. Swipe up on your iPhone and select Screen Mirroring - select your Apple TV.
  5. Unfortunately you won't be able to use your iPhone or iPad while the programme is playing.

You can also stream the on demand TV shows from your Mac by following these instructions:

  1. Open System Preferences, click the Displays icon, and then put a check in the box headed Show Mirroring Options In The Menu Bar When Available.
  2. This will add a new icon to your menu bar, and it’ll be located to the left of the clock. Click this and select Apple TV.
  3. Click the menu bar icon again and select Use As A Separate Display. Clicking this will add the TV as a secondary display, which is identical to plugging in an external monitor. It will let you continue to use your Mac while you AirPlay the likes of Peppa Pig to the living room TV so that the kids can watch it (of course the kids could just watch Peppa Pig on Netflix)
  4. By default the TV is “to the right” of your main display as far as your Mac is concerned, which means you’ll need to drag windows off screen to the right to get them to appear on the TV. Do so with the browser window.
  5. Browse to your favourite TV or catch-up website in the browser, and then choose your programme. Start it playing.
  6. To go truly full-screen without the menu bar appearing you’ll need to click the green button at the top left of the window to make the browser full-screen, and then click the full screen icon within the playback window within the browser.

How to stream content from Netflix or Now TV on the Apple TV

With the popularity of services such as Netflix, Amazon and Now TV you will be glad to learn that you can access them on the Apple TV.

Of course these services are available on other devices too. The only service that Apple TV has that no other device offers is the iTunes Store, where you can purchase TV shows and films, and even hire movies to watch.

Device

Netflix

Now TV

Amazon Video

iTunes

Apple TV

Y

Y

Y

Y

Roku

Y

Y

Y

 

Amazon Fire

 

 

Y

 

Google Chromecast

Y

Y

 

 

Sony PlayStation

Y

Y

Y

 

Now TV Box

 

Y

 

 

YouView

Y

Y

 

 

Sky

 

 

 

 

Virgin Media

Y

 

 

 

BT Vision

Y

 

 

 

Xbox

Y

Y

Y

 

Freesat

 

 

 

 

Freeview Play

Y

 

 

 

Apple’s business model with iTunes is very different to the successful subscription models used by Netflix, Now TV, and Amazon. There are rumours that the iTunes store may get a new life as a subscription service at some point in the future - read all about that here: Apple's plans for a subscription service.

For now it’s easy to watch any content from Netflix, Amazon or Now TV on the Apple TV - in the case of Netflix and Amazon you can find this content via the TV app as described above, but you can also use the apps. Here’s how:

  1. If you have a 4th generation, or one of the new 4K Apple TVs, download the app for the streaming service from the Apple TV App Store.
  2. Open the app and enter your log in details.
  3. Find the content you want to play.

If your Apple TV device is older you can still watch this content, the Netflix and Now TV apps are available by default on older Apple TVs (not Amazon though).

We have a tutorial on How to watch US Netflix in the UK on iPad, iPhone or Mac here.

How to watch live TV on the Apple TV

Some people may have their Apple TV set up in a room where the TV in question isn’t attached to an aerial or dish, in which case they may be looking for a way to watch live TV.

It is possible to watch live TV on the Apple TV, although in our experience the quality isn’t as good.

There are a couple of apps you can use.

On the newer Apple TV models you can download an app called TVPlayer from the App Store. This app offers a TV schedule that makes it easy to select the channel and programme you wish to watch. It also offers an OnDemand service - but note: this is not UK channels, and it is a premium service that you will have to pay extra for.

However, it’s no Freeview swap-in. The channel line-up includes BBC 1, 2 and 4, as well as Channels 4 and 5 but there’s hardly any of the extra channels offered by these broadcasters - no ITV 2 or ITV 3, for example. Notably, you don’t even get the same range of channels as you do by streaming live TV for free at the TV Player website or on the TV Player iPhone/iPad app, where the selection more closely mirrors Freeview. We're guessing this is because of licensing issues, something that comes with the postscript that this situation is likely to change.

Some top-name premium channels are available via the TV Viewer app, such as History, Discovery and Cartoon Network, although to access them you’ll need to pay £4.99 monthly a month. This will also unlock the Catch-up feature, although this is limited to a handful of the aforementioned premium channels and doesn’t feature the likes of BBC or ITV programmes.

Alas, even if you pay-up, you'll find all the channels are streamed in standard definition (SD). In other words, they look slightly fuzzy on HD tellies that are the norm in most living rooms nowadays (although some tellies cope better with the lack of definition than others). This is true of the live streams as well as catch-up. Incidentally, it’s streaming-only within the app, and there’s no option to download content, which can help avoid buffering if you’ve a slow net connection.

To watch live TV using the TVPlayer app on the Apple TV follow these steps:

  1. Download and open the TVPlayer app
  2. Along the top of the interface you will see the following options: Live TV, Catchup, Channels, Guide, Account. Scroll over to Live TV.
  3. Scroll through the list of UK channels to pick the one you want to watch.
  4. If you want to consult the guide first, scroll across to Guide and select that.
  5. Find the programme you wish to watch (you can’t select something in the future or past).

As we noted, we found the streaming quality to be poor. TV Viewer offers no compelling reason to watch British TV via your Apple TV. In fact, the muddy images offered because of its SD streams are a good reason to stick with your Freeview, Sky TV or Virgin Media box, and that's a shame.

Another option is to use the TVCatchUp app and stream the Live TV from your iPhone or iPad. We found the content to be slightly better quality, but obviously we couldn’t use our iPhone at the same time.

We tried two other apps on the Apple TV: iBox promises to bring high quality live TV to the Apple TV, but unfortunately every time we tried to use it it crashed. From the comments it would appear that the app only works with a subscription.

We also tried freeair.tv which promised to “watch and record live TV” but it required separate hardware to work and seemed to be designed for the US audience.

We’d suggest that if you want to watch live TV on your Apple TV plug your telly into an aerial or a satellite dish.

Read our Apple TV Buying Guide and more Apple TV how tos here. Also, here's what to do if your Apple TV won't connect to Wi-Fi

How to watch satellite telly on your Apple TV

As mentioned earlier, most British households can get Freeview but there’s also a second tier of channels often erroneously and anachronistically referred to as "satellite TV". These are typically pumped into most homes by a satellite dish, cable connection or internet-equipped set top box like YouView. Here viewers can access premium channels like Sky One, Fox, and Comedy Central, plus movies and sports channels - although a monthly subscription fee is always required.

At the present time the only way to access on your Apple TV the more popular channels within this second tier is to install and subscribe to Now TV. Although Now TV is owned by Sky, you pay for it via an entirely independent monthly subscription. In other words, this isn't an clone/offshoot of the Sky Go app, and you do not automatically get Now TV if you have a Sky subscription.

Most people opt for the £6.99 Entertainment Pass Now TV service, which delivers the channels mentioned above plus a handful more, but you can alternatively (or additionally) subscribe to the Movie Pass at £9.99, to get the range of offerings on Sky’s subscription movie channels, and the Kids Pass at £2.99 Kids Pass, to add-in many of the usual children's channels. Sky Sports passes are also available, starting at a cool £6.99 per day, up to £33.99 for a month's worth. Unlike most premium TV services there’s no minimum subscription period with Now TV, and you can cancel whenever you wish.

What you get in return is 720p-quality live streaming, catch-up and box-set telly. Both catch-up and box-set offerings are free of adverts or trailers, although you’ll see the usual commercial breaks when watching the live channels. Notably, you can also “tune into” a Now TV subscription via apps on phones and tablets, or via a £14.99 set-top box. This makes Now TV a reasonably attractive deal all-round.