Apple TV Channels is great in theory, but lacking in practice

While MacStories’ Ryan Christoffel thinks Apple is largely on the right track with its efforts to produce original Apple TV+ content, and the company is also well-positioned to take a cut of many popular streaming services’ revenue via In-App Purchases, Christoffel nonetheless thinks it’s clear that the company’s attempts to offer a great TV experience are failing. Apple TV Channels is great in theory, but lacking in practice.

Apple TV Channels
Apple TV Channels

Ryan Christoffel for MacStories:

Channels were (and are) at the center of Apple’s aims to offer a great TV experience. In theory they would enable:

• Using a single app for all your TV viewing needs
• A unified queue to track everything you’re watching
• Downloading content for offline access
• Built-in support for Family Sharing
• Quick playback with a reliable video player
• Support for key features like Picture in Picture
• Easy sign up and cancellation of subscriptions
• Availability across all your devices

Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it? Apple’s dream for channels is very nice. It fixes the issues I’ve continually encountered with our stream-first TV world. It’s a very Apple approach: taking something that is overly complicated for users and making the experience much better than before. While the TV app itself needs rethinking to make it more intuitive, I believe Apple was nonetheless on the right path with its vision for channels.

But here’s the sad truth: that channels dream is quickly losing any chance of becoming reality. Since introducing channels 15 months ago, Apple hasn’t signed a single noteworthy new partner…

HBO Max, is representative of how dire channels’ current state is. HBO was a channel initially, but it isn’t any longer. Now that HBO has become HBO Max, there’s no longer a channel option. So not only has Apple’s channels initiative not signed any key new partners in the last 15 months, it has actually lost its biggest partner during that time.

MacDailyNews Take: Explaining Apple TV Channels to an average (non-techie) person is an exercise in frustration. That’s partly because of the major holdouts (i.e. Netflix) and partly due to Apple’s fetid naming swamp (Apple TV, Apple TV HD, Apple TV 4K, Apple TV+, Apple TV App, Apple TV Channels). Ay yi yi.


  1. Not everything Apple does is a success. IMHO most of their overall TV strategy is stuck in neutral. A lot of vroom, vroom of the engine, but the clutch is not engaged.
    -I like the hardware, but the remote control interface does need to be taken to the next level
    -The TV App doesnt work the way its supposed to and you can’t play content that is live through it, from what I can see. And no Netflix inclusion makes it virtually useless. And I don’t get “Watch Now” at all. And I would love it if all the apps worked the same great way.
    -TV+ content, thusfar, is underwhelming (I’ve enjoyed 3 or 4 shows and movies)
    -I have zero need for Channels because I use YouTube TV

    Its excruciating to watch Apple stumble with these efforts over and over again. I don’t understand why they didnt just do YouTube TV or like the other streaming channel services. Its me-too but then you own a big piece of the viewer.

    1. Bullinkle – I agree with everything except the hardware part…it’s fine of course but Apple should have consolidated this into an actual television set, with Apple TV integrated in the hardware. I can imagine a 35-40” real Cinema Display, as thin as an iPad Pro. People would buy them like hot cakes after a famine.

      1. Apple got one thing right. AppleTV should be a tiny box with a network interface and a video interface. All it’s missing is an OTA antenna port and video decoder, and a slot for a 1-4TB NVMe SSD.

        The display piece should be separate. People can buy whatever they need or can afford. The display should have a power cord and video port. Nothing else. Period.

        This way people can upgrade either component without tossing the other piece in the electronics wasteland. The display and “TV” have different useable lifetimes these days.

        1. Gary, I’ll agree with that, too. Then you won’t have the obsolescence factor. The purchase cycle for TVs is a loooooooot looooonger than cellphones. Apple’s key TV set advantage could be MicroLED. We know they are working on it and it has great potential to be as good as OLED only cheaper. Maybe at that point they will produce a monitor. The only thing about video ports is that even that technolgoy changes – eARC is the latest HDMI standard and I believe is required for Dolby Atmos, but I am not sure about this. A whole bunch of TVs don’t support Dolby Atmos, but maybe the Apple TV box can solve that problem.

          I any event, decoupling the architecture of the TV could work.

  2. James…I agree, in principle. I would love to have an Apple tv set, too, for all the obvious reasons.

    But there is a reason Apple hasnt done it, yet. The economics of it must not be right, yet. Until they have their own screen technology, they will be beholden to Samsung and LG. And the glass making process is something else they would need to figure out how to leverage worldwide capacity. Not to mention some of the chip technology. So, for now, Apple TV is the best they can do – just make the remote control even better. But yeah, if they made a TV set and they offered a YouTube TV like lineup, plus their own great content, that would be it for me,

  3. Unfortunately, Apple’s current new project/development approach is to throw a ton of money at whatever their wishful eye is gazing at….similar to our government yielding quite often the poorest of results. I wish Apple would just take more time thinking it out before they take the next big jump to something new…a lot of wasted time and money. I have AppleTv and yes the remote is terrible but, my biggest disappointment is Apple doesn’t really give you any decent tv channels, I.e., Travel, Discovery, etc.. AppleTv hasn’t helped me to “cut the cord” as there’s actually not much to watch. Another missed opportunity by Apple.

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