The maddeningly painful, pathetic Apple TV experience

“It’s damn near 2014, and what’s the most baffling computing experience we have? The Apple TV television experience. It’s so disappointing,” Chris Maxcer writes for MacNewsWorld. “We get new so-called TV channels — or little Applets — that give us a kaleidoscopic glimpse into the content available from a particular broadcast network, but it’s also locked down so we have to be a cable television subscriber to view it.”

“There’s got to be a better way,” Maxcer writes. “So what do I expect? What should we wish for?”

“The question it comes down to is more about wanting to continue with a business where there’s a lot of money being thrown around to dubious effect — and keeping up the charade as long as possible (traditional TV) — or doing something radical like trying to serve customers in a way that makes sense,” Maxcer writes. “The Apple TV audience is small now, but it’s an audience that could be insanely engaged. Apple TV users are not plopping their butts onto couches in order to zone out on whatever is on. They are actively finding and selecting something that interests them. We don’t have an industry that can sell this?”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. Chris,
    I’m sure if Apple set its mind to it, it could do what you wish. I suppose they must balance what really makes them money, rather than the pipe dream you are suggesting. If you want it all and are willing to pay for it, go with DirecTV, if not, suck it up, because all these entities are not going to give you what you want, they are in business to make money, consumers be damned. But yes, in an ideal world, it would be awesome.

    1. The problem is that I DON’T want it all. I don’t want 6 home shopping network channels, nor 23 religious channels, nor 5 channels of redneck stupidity. The only way the satellite and cable companies can keep subscribers and preserve their business model is holding content and subscribers hostage. It’s an obsolete and doomed model.

      I’d love to see Apple just buy Disney and yank ESPN from cable and satellite providers, and make it an exclusive channel on Apple TV. Subscribers would flee cable and satellite by the millions the very next day.

      1. Problem is, the day after *that*, the internet branches of those same cable/telecom companies will throttle ESPN content over their pipes. Some here on MDN are already complaining their Netflix service started being degraded a month ago despite fast results on other speed tests, one even proved it in a test by getting better results over their phone (!!)

        1. You’re actually offended by the term “redneck stupidity?” Not that “moronic libtardism” makes any sort of sense either. Both are a bit vague and can mean just about anything, so I can’t quite see why it bothers you enough that you have to attack.

    2. Actually, no, I don’t think Apple can do anything. Apple doesn’t really own any content, and it doesn’t control the pipelines. So users will always have to pay these entities. The only thing Apple seems able and willing to do is to change the hardware and software that the end user might use to watch the media content. And as the article accurately mentions, the experience still sucks. Apple TV is a pretty interface, but in general, it doesn’t save the customer time or money. Netflix does, and a few gret-area media outlets do, but Apple TV really is just another flavor of end-user set-top box, just as locked down as any other set-top box.

  2. There’s one experience worse: using iTunes to buy and watch television via a season pass.

    Anyone else frustrated by having to remember which shows have become available to download that night night, then clicking on “Store”, then clicking on “Home” then clicking on “Purchased”, then sorting the purchased list by “TV Shows”, then clicking on one of the seasons, then clicking to list the episodes in “SD”, then scrolling down to the bottom of the list to see if there’s a new show available, then clicking “Download”, then opening the download window (or navigating back to the Library and finding the new episode), and clicking on the show to watch it?

    It’s driving me crazy and quickly extinguishing my hope for Apple’s dominant position in the “post-TV” world that’s rapidly approaching.

      1. I had a long back & forth with iTunes support on this. Have to say iTunes has the best customer service experience of any online product/service offering.

        Will try the bug report form. But my bigger concern is that if they don’t see it as a problem, they’re either not using the system themselves (a huge problem) or they don’t see the existing UX as a problem (an even bigger problem).

        I think they literally don’t understand how people are using their product. For many of us iTunes is not a “pay per view” service, it’s a television replacement.

        Netflix gets this. Apple better figure it out fast.

      1. Dave, you may remember this, but in case not . . .

        Until October, November last year shows bought via Season Pass did download automatically when they became available. I rather liked it because I’d come home from work, turn on my Mac, start iTunes and go get ready to watch the new episode over my AppleTV. The new process is way too tedious and time consuming.

    1. @disposableidentity:

      Or you can click “Email Notification” in your store account once and for all.

      From the email for a new episode, click the link, and Confirm Download.

      It takes about a second and a quarter.

      1. I get the emails each day — at work.

        At home my iMac is in plugged into my TV the living room (no email).

        Why can’t iTunes download all of the new episodes automatically each night (like it used to), and then offer a “Purchased” list in the Library that’s sortable by date downloaded?

        Problem solved with two (easy) UI changes.

    2. Absolutely!! It is horrific beyond words how awful getting TV shows from iTunes has become. My god, has Apple totally fscked this up!! I just cant believe how incompetent this whole situation looks.

      I still buy content on iTunes, but it is a MISERABLE experience.

      1. Hate to say it, but there must be a development group for iTunes whose job it is is to make the most unintuitive complicated interface there can be.
        And then change it every few months just for fun.

  3. I own two AppleTV devices and the platform has lots of potential. I think Steve Jobs knew from dealing with record executive just how difficult it would be to crack the code on the broadcast and cable TV industry. In my opinion the entertainment industry in general is way past broken. The model simply doesn’t work like it did in the past. There are many reasons, but the biggest is quite possibly simple greed. The AppleTV experience will never improve until someone breaks the current non-functional model that is literally on life support and offers something compelling.

  4. The sources of obstruction are the existing content providers and the distributors who desire to maintain the profits enabled by the status quo. They only want things to change if it results in increased profits while maintaining or increasing the level of control they currently enjoy.

    Apple needs to promote the growth of indie movie and TV/video content by offering AppleTV as a simple and effective means to distribute their content. That will spawn innovation and creation in the TV and movie industries, much as iTunes marketing and distribution has done for indie music labels since the mid-2000s.

    As I see it, the only ways to forge ahead are:
    (1) Reach reasonable agreements with the incumbent TV/movie creation and distribution companies to evolve the methods of content control and distribution (seems unlikely unless the incumbent companies become desperate)

    (2) Break the stranglehold of the incumbents by creating compelling new content independent of the labels and employing alternative means of distribution over the internet (e.g., AppleTV). This second option could eventually lead to the desperation that will enable the first option.

  5. Perhaps Maxcer (and others writing about the death of cable) are underestimating the number of people who just want to plop their butts onto couches and zone out on the current sitcom or cop show.

  6. Could not agree more. Tried the ABC app on my Apple TV and Directv was not on this. I followed the link if my service was not mentioned and watched what I wanted over the web. Boy is that stupid. Yes it had too many commercials but I got to see something that I missed all the same.

  7. As someone who has owned an Apple TV from day one I heartily agree with Mr. Maxcer.
    We’re almost seven years in and the UI experience on Apple TV is remains appallingly bad with loads of channels on the screen we don’t want/use/need but can’t remove or rearrange, no Siri integration and no apps.
    Without Netflix it’d be really bad.
    The Remote app helps but it’s a pain to have to keep the app up (and run your battery down on your phone). The tiny silver remote seems designed to get lost easily.
    Come on Tim, when are you going to get serious?

    1. You can move the Apple TV apps by holding down on them until they wiggle, then moving them. You can hide unwanted apps by turning on Parental Controls and deselecting them.

      1. I was not aware of either if these things. Let me give them a try. Thanks.
        I’m just a regular guy, aside from knowing my way around an amp I’m not tech inclined.
        Just waiting patiently for Apple to knock my socks off with something amazing. I know they can do it.

  8. All the old paradigms of music, movies, books and TV are broken, but the new paradigm isn’t here yet.
    Sadly, the owners of the transmission method (finer optic pipes, copper, whatever) have control because without them we can’t get the content.
    Advertising continues to be a useless but monster of a $cow and that is the controlling source.
    Big corporations think that they can get way more $value from ads than from people paying $3.99 for a movie. As things stand they are correct.

  9. This guy has absolutely no clue about how content is created, paid for, and distributed to consumers. He seems to think it should all be free, or hugely inexpensive, but still provide the same levels of quality, creativity, effects, etc.

    Guess what dude? Making TV shows and movies costs money. A LOT of money. And even then, there are plenty of bad shows that lose money, so the good ones have to make up for the bad ones.

    He wants to watch what he wants, without commercials, when he wants, on any device he wants, whenever he wants. Great. Be prepared to pay for that handsomely.

    1. Yeah, I can never wrap my head around why people don’t have even an inkling of what you just outlined.

      It’s like the people that go on Pawn Stars, get a professional quote on their item and then ask for that same price from the Rick. WTF, dude has to turn a profit, pay rent, pay employees, pay for insurance, pay for health insurance for everyone, etc.

  10. I’ve been buying iTunes movies for years, and many come with Extras, which you can access if you use your Mac, but not from the Apple TV. I understand this worked once upon a time, but not anymore. I don’t understand why Apple would include Extras with new releases, then not allow you to access them from their primary device for viewing movies.

  11. It’s excellent as an iPod for the tv and sound system. My family just views and listens to iTunes content downloaded or ripped from my DVD and CD library. (Yeah, I’m old)
    I have two of them, an original one was burglarized, and my family enjoys them all.

  12. Old Dummy TVs were created as a media to send propaganda and political messages direct to the masses. It doesn’t matter if it was in a movie, comedy, talk show or news hour. Corporations also toke advantage of the little screens to play with our will and buy they goods. The System benefits from this concept, it won’t be easy to change it.
    The Apple TV and other devices are trying to break this bondage and capture our attention to their side. It is still confusing and difficult. I think the great advantage they have, is that the owner can decide what to watch when he/she wants. That is something powerful. It has a long way to go.

  13. If I had a Blu-ray player in my Mac, it would be easier to drop my greedy content provider. Oh wait! Apple won’t give me a Blu-ray drive because they want to be my greedy content provider.

  14. The problem is that the model is not broken if you are ESPN or another desirable content provider. ESPN collects $500M/month in carrying/subscriber fees from the cable companies. ESPN doesn’t have to deal with pain-in-the-ass customers about billing issues, service outages, etc.

    Given the relatively small install base of Apple TV users (and I am one), it doesn’t yet make economic sense for them to offer their content as a paid subscription via AppleTV. Apple could continue to own the billing relationship with the customer, but ESPN still would need to support the customer. They are not currently organized to do so and the revenue from AppleTV and Roku and others is peanuts.

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