The biggest disappointment for anyone with an Apple TV is the sheer disregard that the UK channels have 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 has built an app for the Apple TV.

Luckily it is possible to watch the On Demand content offered by these UK channels on the Apple TV, but it requires a bit of a work around that means the process isn't nearly as simple as you would expect form an Apple product.

In this article we will explain how to watch UK catch up TV from the likes of iPlayer, All4, Demand 5, ITV Hub, and UKTV Play. As well as how to watch live TV on the Apple TV.

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?

If you have a fourth generation Apple TV, or the 2017 4K Apple TV, you can download the BBC iPlayer app from the Apple TV app store and use it to watch BBC content on your Apple TV.

No other UK channels have made their content available to the Apple TV yet though.

This is all the more frustrating when you consider that all the competing devices do feature On Demand apps for the big UK channels.

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

Demand 5

ITV Hub

UKTV Play

Sky

Apple TV

 

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

 

Macworld UK spoke to the nation’s major broadcasters to ask when (or if) they'll be porting their TV apps to the Apple TV, and got the following responses:

  • ITV doesn't have any current plans for the ITV Hub app to launch on Apple TV.
  • Channel 5 is "considering a launch for My5 on Apple TV in 2017". No sign of that yet.
  • Sky pointed out that its Now TV app is available, but it has "no current plans to launch Sky Go on Apple TV".
  • Channel 4 didn't respond to our enquiries so we've no idea if the All4 app will be coming to theApple TV.

Sadly, the news gets even worse. We found in our tests that the few Brit TV apps that are currently available - including BBC iPlayer - integrate poorly with the Apple TV 4th gen. For example, while our cousins across the Atlantic might ask Siri to track down a particular show, or shows with a particular actor or in a particular genre, the apps from UK broadcasters treat the Apple TV as barely more than a dumb streaming box. Ask about Peaky Blinders, for example, and you'll get only iTunes and Netflix suggestions via Apple’s database that powers Siri, even though you could also use the iPlayer app to watch episodes entirely free of charge.

Subtitling is also not currently available with UK TV apps because of an incompatibility with existing subtitling technologies, and to the best of our knowledge none of the apps offer 1080p full HD, as with broadcast digital TV, satellite or cable. 720p or blurry old SD appear to be the only options.

Chances are that even if you don't own one of the boxes above your TV already supports some of these on catch up channels. Many TV manufacturers have built in the On Demand channels into their TVs, so you can watch CatchUp TV at any time, but we won’t go into all of them here.

Read our comparison of all the Apple TV alternatives here.

How to watch Catch Up TV on the Apple TV

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

With the exception of BBC iPlayer, which offers a dedicated app that runs on the Apple TV, your only option it to stream the latest episode of your favourite programme from the TV company’s app on your iPhone, iPad, or directly from your Mac web browser.

Luckily the TV companies have made apps available for iOS. So, using your iPhone or iPad you can stream shows from All 4, Demand 5, and UKTV Play.

ITV Hub has a iOS app, but it doesn’t support Airplay Mirroring.

To watch Catch Up TV from the UK On Demand channels follow these steps (they should be the same regardless of the On Demand app):

  1. Turn on your Apple TV
  2. Download the TV 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. If you’d like to be able to use your iPhone or iPad while the programme is playing you may be able to switch from Screen Mirroring, but this seems to work on a per app basis.

For example in the All 4 app, once the app is playing video you should be able to follow these steps to play the content while still using your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone or iPad to reveal the Control Panel.
  2. Press on the shortcut to the media player.
  3. This should take you to a window with media controls for the programme currently playing on the Apple TV.
  4. If it does you should be able to press the Airplay icon to stream to the Apple TV in the background, allowing you to use your iPhone or iPad.

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

Luckily there are other ways to view content on the Apple TV, and with the popularity of services such as Netflix, 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

2017…

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 is speculation that Apple intends to start offering a subscription service at some point, but there are concerns that it is a little late to the market now.

Good news for Apple is the fact that the Amazon Video app is coming to the Apple TV soon (rumours point to 26 October 2017). This should bring Amazon content to the Apple TV of anyone who has an Amazon Prime account.

For now it’s easy to watch any content from Netflix or Now TV on the Apple TV. 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.
  4. If your Apple TV device is older you can still watch this content, the app will be available by default.

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

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.

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.