HBO built the Apple TV app entirely in-house for the first time ever

“To some, Apple TV seems like a laggard,” Greg Sandoval reports for The Verge. “The web TV box that Apple has referred to for years as a ‘hobby’ is only now offering access to shows and events from HBO and ESPN — long after Roku and Xbox. The truth, however, is that the process of acquiring and delivering episodes of True Blood and SportsCenter isn’t as easy as flicking a switch.”

“Nothing is more time consuming than writing all the code involved and encoding HBO’s massive video library, said Otto Berkes, HBO’s chief technology officer, in an exclusive interview with The Verge. Apple TV was the first app that HBO created completely in-house, said Berkes,” Sandoval reports. “Prior to Apple TV, HBO teamed with third parties on its apps, but ‘this was 100 percent created by our software and design staff,’ Berkes said. ‘It marks a turning point. I would say we’re two times faster than just a year ago, and that will increase over time.'”

Sandoval reports, “One more reason that Apple may have appeared to dawdle getting content for Apple TV is that Cupertino was focused first to supply content for the iPhone and iPad. It stands to reason that those devices would go first, since a lot more people own those than they do Apple TVs. They were also likely an easier sell to cable and satellite TV providers, who were a lot less afraid of mobile devices initially than over-the-top boxes like the Apple TV.”

Much more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple adds HBO GO, WatchESPN, Sky News, Crunchyroll and Qello streaming content to Apple TV – June 19, 2013
Hollywood studios warm to Apple’s iCloud; HBO agrees to allow Universal, Fox movies on Apple’s iCloud – March 12, 2012
HBO Go apps hit 4 million downloads; coming to TVs and consoles – August 3, 2011
Home Box Office releases HBO GO app for Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch – April 29, 2011


  1. And this is why I say that Apple TV has already lost to Roku. They could have opened up their frameworks to third party developers a lot sooner and competed, but now they’re far behind in the race. Third party content is exactly why I got a Roku player instead of an Apple TV – not even price, even though Roku is half the price of Apple TV.

    1. Really? AppleTV has lost to Roku? Maybe at your house, but not in the market.

      Some U.S. market facts:
      Apple TV: More than 13,000,000
      Roku: More than 5,000,000
      Boxee Box: About 200,000 (before it was discontinued last summer)

      So let’s see – that means that Apple has 71% marketshare in this space (not counting things like Xbox, etc.)

      Yep, Apple is having a hard time keeping up. Can you imagine what would happen if they actually really FOCUSED on AppleTV?

      1. If they had focused on Apple TV, maybe more of those 5 million Roku owners would be Apple TV owners, and Apple TV could dominate the market today, rather than having a sizeable competitor who can gain a sizeable competitive advantage now that they have some brand recognition. If Apple TV had just opened up sooner, then people might not even know today what a Roku player is. Just think how much further behind iOS would be behind Android if it had taken until iOS 3 to open up to third party apps.

          1. The point is, can anyone make a good argument why keeping Apple TV closed to third party developers was a good idea? Really? Why are we even defending that? If you want to make an argument that Apple TV is better, or is performing better, than Roku (or any other set-top box), can you really say that it wouldn’t be even better than it is if third party content providers could provide content for it? I mean, I love Apple, I love my MBP, I love my iPhone, I would love my iPad if I had one, but this is one big area where Apple TV is lacking, and it should be easy to correct – why haven’t they?

            1. Exactly! If Apple TV had opened their own app store (or channel store, since we’re talking about TV here), they would have been basically what Roku is now, and Roku would still be a no-namer in the market, and we wouldn’t even be speaking their name, because Apple TV could have had a virtual monopoly on the market. Missed opportunity big time.

            2. Your comment sounds like the true armchair quarterback CEO you are. I mean, starting an app store for Apple TV without lining up proper content providers and getting them to approve streaming content without regard to the what the cable companies would allow? Genius…. (not)

            3. The cable companies have nothing to do with this – Roku has plenty of channels of content that aren’t even available on cable: TED, The Mormon Channel, BYUtv, NASA, etc., and even some content that is available on cable – NBC News, BYUtv, for example. Apple TV doesn’t need the cable companies’ approval to open up to third party content.

            4. ‘…Roku has plenty of channels of content that aren’t even available on cable: TED, The Mormon Channel, BYUtv, NASA, etc…’

              Great, channels that I have NO INTEREST in EVER watching. So much for those third party developers.

            5. Well it’d be pretty stupid to think that big changes aren’t already afoot in Apple’s TV world behind closed doors. The calm before the inevitable storm. It’s only the geeky ADHD/ADD crybabies who are so impatiently impatient with the “gimme, gimme, gimme my innovation NOWWWW!!!” I don’t mind waiting if greatness is ahead in this space, only a release away when Apple is ready. It’s like constantly crying about no flying cars until one day Tesla announces one. Technology comes at the pace it needs to to get it right and when it’s ready, at least at Apple. If others are able to jump ahead and get it right more power to them. So far I haven’t seen many examples of that happening. So I wait for Apple’s solution first.

            6. But there is something to be said for keeping pace with your competitors. How long has the Roku player been open to third party content now? Several years? How long has iOS been open to third party content? It’s not like Apple can’t do it, and since they already have done it in other spaces, it’s not even _that_ innovative as to be so difficult. It’s just a good business decision, it’s a no brainer, and Apple’s just not taking it. Why?

            7. Let me remind you, your argument is an old one and doesn’t fit the Apple culture that aspires to deploying great, easy to use, products that just work. Here are just a few examples of markets Apple was not first to market but later destroyed their competition:

              1. MP3 Player
              2. Smartphone
              3. Subcompact laptop errr Tablet….errr… iPad market

              I have absolute confidence Apple will take this hobby and blow up the Living Room landscape of competitors and players. It will be fun to watch. Patience is the key ingredient here.

            8. Oh, I’m sure Apple will come up with some sort of interface, hardware structure, something that will just wow and amaze people. Even still, if third party content isn’t part of the picture, it won’t really matter much.

    2. I think the idea that AppleTV is in some kind of “race” with Roku is specious and silly. It’s not like having either device in your possession has somehow made you “win”. In fact, either device can be replaced by the next best thing at a moment’s notice.
      Apple’s method of creating the foundation of delivering content is far more advanced than anything Roku is capable of and even if today’s devices are not optimal, there are better ones always coming. I just wish that HBO didn’t think they were entitled to $40/month of my money just so I can watch one or two shows a week, which is why I will wait for A La Carte.

    3. I would not say that Apple has lost to Roku. They are just a little behind because the went for the wrong people. They went to the cable providers instead of going directly to the stations. The cable companies are not going to give up their monopoly that easy. They can sway the stations to come over like they are doing now. Once more and more stations come over the cable companies will loose and the ATV will move ahead of Roku.

  2. For youésers only… torr or toast? Qello and “manga for nerds” the recent out-us addons. Qello not connected to SN, should, same for Apple TV, more social should be.

  3. Before ATV, I bought a ROKU way back when all it could do was pickup songs from my iTunes Library… I still have it, rarely use it, and have purchased 3 AppleTV’s, simply because of the tight integration between my iTunes running on a Mac Mini Server, and all my iDevices that I either use with my ATV, or control it.
    ROKU?? forget it.

  4. What’s Roku? Typically US-centric arguments, what about all those other countries that make up the rest of the world?
    They have people who buy and use Apple TV, with the likes of iPlayer and Netflicks, but I’m pretty sure Roku has no market over here.

  5. I don’t know, but the “Apple TV can do no wrong because it’s Apple!” arguments are sounding suspiciously like the chorus of voices who were defending Apple to the hilt when the rumors of the MBPs completely dropping HD storage and capping storage space at 512GB after HD users had enjoyed up to 750GB of storage (as I do currently on my MBP). Fortunately, it seems like someone at Apple listened, and at the very least, now we have SSDs that go up to 768GB. Hopefully, even though there are those here who are ignoring the fact that third party content is a severe oversight, Apple itself will not, and we will be getting third party content on Apple TV soon.

    1. All I know is that about a year after I purchased tv first generation, I dumped Dish Network…don’t miss that bill or any of their crap programming one damn bit. An “app store” for tv would be beyond cool, where you can select only the programming you want. The newly added “Qiello” is a great example. It’s pretty damn cool.

    2. If you haven’t changed to an SSD in your Macbook Pro by now then you are really missing out. I was completely shocked by the increase in performance of a new SSD, especially the SATA-III kind. My 2011 17″ MBP came with a 300GBps 750GB hard drive, I replaced it with a 600GBps 512GB SSD. The difference is stunning and well worth the loss of storage space.

      1. That’s the same angle that the anti-HDD crowd has been trying to sway me with, but for me personally, _nothing_ is worth the loss of storage space. I even made a post on a thread back then that detailed how, the way I use my MBP, 512GB simply wasn’t enough (yes, there are prosumers like that who exist). But again, the point is moot, because now, I don’t have to. Now, if I had gone up to the 1TB HD and would have to go down to 768GB for SSD, then that would change things, but as it stands right now, at least I can keep my storage space and get the speed boost. And again, with the Mac Pro going to all SSD drives (the one computer that I think can afford to do so more than anything else in Apple’s lineup), hopefully that will get the ball rolling to drive down the costs of SSDs so that we can eventually get both the storage space and the speed in the laptop lines.

        1. If I seem “anti HDD” it is due to the fact that I have so much experience with hard drives that have failed, usually resulting in the loss of data. However, not one of the SSD’s I’ve purchased in the past 3 years has had a problem, even the old 1st gen 40GB I continue to repurpose still runs strong.
          HDD’s are great for storage and that’s what they do for me sitting in a server connected to my home network. 12TB available at all times to my Macs, AppleTV and even a PS3. In fact, I will probably never again carry that much data around in a laptop that can be stolen from me when it’s just as accessible on my home wi-fi network.

          1. Again, I don’t remember the exact figures I posted before, but from the context of portable music production, most of that space was taken up by soft synths and DAWs, which, let me tell you, you don’t want to have to keep accessing that over wi-fi bandwidth, and I really did figure I needed 750GB of storage space internally. Now, I wouldn’t want to even fathom the needs of, say, a movie producer on the go when they’re shooting video, editing, animating, etc., all above and beyond just the audio.

            It’s not to debate the merits of HDD vs. SSD – I’ve read the advantages. It really is just a matter of, do you need all those GBs, and the answer is, yes, I (and plenty of other users) do.

            But fortunately, now that we have a 768GB SSD, we can get the GBs we need. 😀

  6. The day Apple stops referring to Apple TV as a “hobby” is the day that Apple TV reveals its true purpose and changes “TV” forever. That day may be next month, or it may be never.

    One thing is for sure. If all Apple has is a product that competes with Roku, then Apple TV will remain “just a hobby.”

  7. HBO produces mostly garbage shows anyway. I use my Apple TV’s mainly to stream my iTunes media to my televisions. I also have one in the family room connected to two speakers which functions as a headless stereo. Works well!

  8. At some point content providers like HBO will realize that they can get more revenue with an ala carte system on iTunes, with it’s 400 million customer accounts than they can by wholesaling their content to cable and satellite. At that point the worm will turn swiftly, and Apple will be perfectly positioned.

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