The Apple TV as a Cable TV Replacement

This is where the Apple TV is more of a hobby and less of an Apple product. Apple doesn’t like letting its flagship products out of Cupertino incomplete, it reflects poorly on the company. I believe by referring to the Apple TV as a hobby, Apple somehow attempts to exempt it from this policy.

If Apple were to build a box capable of replacing your cable TV subscription, it would have to at least deliver the functionality you’d get from said subscription. The Apple TV however, does not.

The UI is inherited from the rest of the Apple TV interface. It’s clean and to the point.

The rental process is simple. You can find shows by network, genre, popularity or your own favorites. You can also manually search for TV shows. TV shows are available for rental 24 hours after they air. To rent a TV show in 720p it’s $0.99. You have 30 days to begin watching and 48 hours to watch the show (unlimited times) once you press play.

The pricing isn’t even the problem. At $0.99 a show you’d have to watch over 60 shows a month just to equal how much it costs to have Digital Cable through Time Warner in Raleigh, NC. The issue is selection.

Apple only carries shows from Fox, ABC and BBC America. Most of which you can get through a basic cable package for around $15 per month, or over the air for free. Adding insult to injury is the fact that most of these shows are also available for streaming a day after they air on the Network’s websites and Hulu.

Then there’s also the fact that you can’t channel surf on the Apple TV. You have to find a show, manually preview it and then move on to the next one if you’re bored and looking for something to do. It’s just not something you can do without a live TV stream.

Apple’s pricing model would work very well if you could watch anything you wanted on the Apple TV. You effectively get DVR on every show and at $0.99 per show you can watch a ton before even breaking even with what a decent digital cable package would cost. Not to mention there aren’t any strange taxes or fees lopped on at the end of the month.

That would be in an ideal, non-hobby world of course. The Apple TV today just doesn’t deliver that. You get an incomplete cable TV experience at best, at worst you end up paying for things that you can get for free.

Apple TV Movie Rental Netflix


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  • Hrel - Monday, October 4, 2010 - link

    I think it's funny you listed "not being able to channel surf" as a fault. If anything it's good. That's a huge waste of time. Hopefully if we remove that ability from everyone everywhere people will get up and do something productive. Hell, even a bath is more relaxing than channel surfing. Or conquering the world in Civ. Or writing up little applets for the web. Hell, looking through youtube or wikipedia is better use of time. Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, October 4, 2010 - link

    I disagree.

    1. if you have two channels either right next to eachother, or within a small distance, who wants to use the guide?
    2. you may not know the name of a show but are vaguely familiar when it came on
    3. you can find many new, interesting shows by channel surfing
  • KineticHummus - Monday, October 4, 2010 - link

    "There’s simply no way to do away with cable TV and use a simple, IP based, autonomous box for all of your content without resorting to piracy of some sort."

    SO true...
  • Mathieu Bourgie - Monday, October 4, 2010 - link

    I couldn't agree more. Let's hope that Apple gets serious about this and that competitors will follow. More competition is good for customers! Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Monday, October 4, 2010 - link

    I dunno... is it "piracy" to torrent TV shows that aired the night before? They're already broadcast for free without DRM... Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, October 4, 2010 - link

    what if you don't pay for cable? Reply
  • Tros - Monday, October 4, 2010 - link

    I think he means for stuff that comes off the air. Say, House MD broadcast over the air from Fox.

    And technically, somebody is losing because you're not watching advertisements. But that's a whole other level of morals.

    It'd be nice if this thing was x86, because then the jailbreak would likely have the HDTV-tuner (already exists in OS X) through USB 2.0. I want to believe that Apple's making a piece of hardware for the hackers/pirates to write software for, but GoogleTV/Amazon doesn't seem to have a problem with going with a rent-free model.
  • archcommus - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    Thought the same thing myself. Read these words and was glad someone finally wrote down what I had been thinking. Reply
  • Docchris - Monday, October 4, 2010 - link

    "Most bitrates played fine although at 70Mbps or above the video player would often either crash or the entire Apple TV would reboot."

    where did you get a 70mbps file from? that exceeds even blu-ray's maximum spec!
  • Revdarian - Monday, October 4, 2010 - link

    On "The Apple TV as a Cable TV Replacement" scroll down to the 3rd paragraph, at the end of it here is the phrase "You have 30 days to being watching and 48 hours to watch the show (unlimited times) once you press play." the small mistake is that it should read "to begin watching..."
    Great article tho, had great fun reading it, and agree with it all.

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