There are three Apple TVs: the Apple TV, the Apple TV app, and the Apple TV+ Streaming Service. Which ever one you are trying to find out about, we will endeavour to address your questions below. If you want to run the TV app on your Mac, we'll tell you how; if you want to get the Apple TV+ streaming shows on your Mac look no further; and if you are looking for a way to plug your Apple TV into your Mac, we'll discuss that too. We even discuss a way to stream the content on your iPhone, e.g. photos, to your Mac's screen. So we have hopefully got you all covered!
Apple TV and the Mac
When we first wrote this story the Apple TV was a gadget for streaming photos and videos from your iPad, iPhone or Mac to a TV screen. It could also be used to watch streaming services on your TV via various apps you could get on the Apple TV store, including Netflix, iPlayer, and so on. Then Apple introduced the TV app on Apple TV, iPhone and iPad, and finding something to watch on those Apple products became even easier, because you could just search for a show and find out which of your various subscription services and on demand channels had it.
For a while the Mac missed out on the TV app. That was particularly ironic given that many years ago a Mac app called Front Row did basically what the TV app does now: showcased all your movies, TV shows, and music on your Mac. It was strange that Apple didn't seem to think that people would want to watch this kind of media on the Mac's amazing Retina display screen. Others might have considered getting a Mac mini to use as a media centre - something that was a popular use for that Mac back in the days of Front Row.
That was why people used to read this story. They wanted to find a way to either get the Apple TV app on their Mac, or to find a way to connect their Apple TV to their Mac for the same reason. But all that has changed for two reasons. First: Apple has bought the TV app to the Mac. And second: with the arrival of Apple's new streaming service, Apple TV+ there are more people than ever trying to find out how they can watch Apple TV on a Mac.
There are still people looking for a way to hook up an iPhone or iPad to their Mac so that they can stream from the iOS device to the Mac, so we will look at that too.
How to get the TV app, and Apple TV+ on the Mac
In October 2019 Apple finally introduced the TV app on the Mac with the arrival of macOS Catalina. If you install Catalina you will get the TV app, and with it access to the new TV+ streaming service that launched on 1 November 2019.
If you want to get the TV ap on your Mac then you'll need to install Catalina on a Mac that supports Catalina. We cover how to install Catalina here.
These Macs support Catalina:
- MacBook models from early 2015 or later
- MacBook Air models from mid-2012 or later
- MacBook Pro models from mid-2012 or later
- Mac mini models from late 2012 or later
- iMac models from late 2012 or later
- iMac Pro (all models)
- Mac Pro models from late 2013
If you want to sign up for the Apple TV+ subscription service you will be able to do so within the TV app, including getting the first 7 days for free on a trial. Also, if you have bought a new Mac, iPhone or iPad recently you can qualify for a whole year of TV+ for free! Otherwise, it's £4.99/$4.99 a month.
How to use the TV app on the Mac
That's how to get the Apple TV app on your Mac, next we will look at how to use it on the Mac.
The TV app, along with the new Music app which also arrived in Catalina, replaces iTunes on your Mac. It contains all the movies and programmes have previously bought from the iTunes Store, links to shows and movies you might like that can be accessed in various different apps and streaming services (not just Apple's) and Channels, which are third-party streaming services you can sign up for within the TV app.
We feel that the TV app is a little more limited on the Mac than it is on the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV because there are fewer Mac apps for viewing content in. For example, if you search for Peppa Pig on the iPhone TV app you will see numerous options under How to Watch including My 5, Netflix, Buy from iTunes, Prime Video. But in the TV app on the Mac the only option is to buy the seasons from Apple.
This might change if third-party streaming services make apps for the Mac. This could be a bi-product of Apple making it easier to convert iPad apps to the Mac. We'll keep our fingers crossed.
It's easy to buy and rent from the iTunes Store within the new TV app on the Mac. This was always the case though - you could previously access the iTunes Store to purchase and rent movies and the like via the iTunes app.
To open the TV app on the Mac, click on TV logo in your Dock or press Command + Space and start typing TV.
There are various tabs along the top: Watch Now, Movies, TV Shows, Kids, and Library.
If you scroll down the page you’ll see Up Next, which is where you can find the shows you are watching; TV+ which showcases the Apple shows and movie; a section of videos showing you how to use the app; a promotion for movies being offered at a discount; New Movies; TV We Love; New and Noteworthy; Buzzowthy TV; Apple TV Channels; More to Explore; and so on.
The thing is that on the Mac these are all different ways to show you content available on the iTunes Store. On the Apple TV set-top-box, iPhone and iPad you'll see other content from third parties showcased here.
In the US you might be able to also see shows here that are available on the other streaming services you are signed up for, assuming you signed up to them from within the TV app. But for no, in the UK at least, there are so few services that are signed up as Channels that the content seems very weighted in favour of Apple.
Assuming you do just want to watch something you've previouly bought from the iTunes Store, just click on Library you will be invited to sign into your Apple account. Having done so, you will see all your shows and movies you have previously bought on iTunes.
Get Apple TV+ on the Mac
While it's annoying that the TV app on the Mac doesn't include all the features of the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV versions, it does at least offer the new shows being distributed by Apple via its Apple TV+ streaming service.
Signing up to the Apple TV+ streaming service on the Mac is easy.
- Just scroll to the TV+ section and click on Try it Free.
- Choose your show from those on offer (The Morning Show, See, Dickinson, etc)
- Click on Play Episode.
- Your trial will commence as soon as you start streaming.
- After the end of the trial you will be signed up to the subscription package for £4.99/$4.99 a year.
If you aren't keen on subscribing read: How to get Apple TV+ for free.
How to stream content from an iPad or iPhone to your Mac
It’s not just the content available on the Apple TV that you might want to be able to watch on your Mac though. Perhaps you have an iPad or iPhone and you’d like to stream content from that to the screen on your Mac. You may well want to do that if your TV screen is smaller than that of your 27in iMac.
Luckily there are a few options for streaming from your iPhone or iPad to your Mac, so, while you can’t use the Apple TV interface on your Mac yet, you can pretty much stream all the same content to it.
You might be forgiven for thinking it would be possible to stream content from your iPhone or iPad to your Mac using AirPlay. After all, AirPlay is available on all three devices and is what allows you to stream from your iPhone or iPad to your TV via the Apple TV. So the fact that you can’t easily stream content from your iPhone or iPad to your Mac does seem like an odd omission.
Luckily it is possible to stream from an iOS device to a Mac, but to do so you need to install an app on your Mac.
There are a couple you could choose from, AirServer or Reflector, we look at both below.
Want to learn about the next Apple TV and when it might be released? More info here. You may also be interested to learn which TV sets work with AirPlay without requiring an Apple TV.
Reflector, which you can download here has a free 7-day trial, or costs $14.99. It lets you mirror your iPhone, iPad to the screen of your Mac (and other devices).
- Download and install the Reflector software on your Mac (you will see a message warning you about installing it, but since we know it to be a legitimate app you should be alright to go ahead and open it).
- If you are just using the trial you can click on Try Reflector 3. Otherwise, purchase the software and enter the licence key. (If you use the trial version you’ll see watermarks and it will time out after seven days).
- You won’t see an interface appear, but you should see the Reflector icon in the dock and the Reflector options should appear in the menu. You don’t need to do anything here though.
- With Reflector running on your Mac, turn to your iPhone or iPad, open whatever it is you want to stream and tap on the Share icon (the one that’s a square with an arrow coming out of it).
- Choose AirPlay.
- You will now see the option to stream to your Mac, which you will be able to do as soon as you enter the AirPlay code which will appear on your Mac’s screen.
AirServer has a free 14-day trial which also has a watermark - although this time the watermark isn’t quite so intrusive. You can download it here.
- Download and install - as above you will need to approve the app before it installs since it’s not downloaded from the Mac App Store. You may also have to allow AirServer to ‘Control your Computer’ in Security & Privacy settings.
- Again, you won’t see an interface, this time the only indication that AirSever is running on your Mac is an icon in the menu bar that looks a little like the AirDrop or share icons on a Mac.
- Now, if you open your iPhone and iPad and find the thing you wish to stream to your Mac, tap on the Share icon, and choose AirPlay.
- Again, you will see your Mac listed as an option to stream too. Tap on that icon and it will start streaming straight away - without having to enter a code.
For more advice about using the Apple TV read: How to set up the Apple TV.
How to attach an Apple TV to a Mac
As for using an Apple TV with a Mac, while you can stream content from your Mac to your TV screen via your Apple TV, you can’t stream content from your Apple TV to your Mac.
As we said above, if you happen to have a computer display that has an HDMI port you can connect that to your Apple TV and use that just as you would your TV screen, as we have below.