Free Content for Apple TV

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Free content for Apple TV

If you purchased an Apple TV to join the multitude of cord-cutters, there’s good news. The Apple ecosystem offers a lot of free content. While I recommend subscribing to Hulu Plus and Netflix (they’re exceptional values), one can enjoy a vast selection of free content with Apple TV, and even more with an iPad or iPhone.

NOTE: This article covers using AirPlay to beam free content to Apple TV. It was originally written for the 2nd and 3rd generation model, however, it still applies to Apple TV 4.

The new Apple TV 4 features an App Store with thousands of apps, many of which are content channels. The tvOS App Store features numerous free content apps for Apple TV 4.

Interested in Apple TV 4 and tvOS? Check out these articles:

 
Apple TV, as a standalone device, offers a lot of free content. Apple TV currently features the following channels: A&E, ABC, ABC News, ACC Sports, AOL On, Apple Events, Bloomberg, CBS, CBS News, CBS Sports, CNBC, CNNgo, Crackle, Computers, Crunchyroll, Dailymotion, Disney, Disney Junior, Disney XD, ESPN, Feeln, Flickr, FOX NOW, Fusion, FX NOW, FYI, HBO GO, HBO NOW, History, Hulu Plus, iCloud Photos, iMovie Theater, iTunes Festival, iTunes Radio, KORTV, Lifetime, M2M, MLB.TV, MLS, Movies, Music, NatGeo TV, NBA, NBC, NBC Sports Live Extra, Netflix, NFL, NHL, 120 Sports, PBS, PBS Kids, Podcasts, Qello, Radio, Red Bull TV, Showtime, Showtime Anytime, Smithsonian Channel, Sky News, Tastemade, TED, Tennis Channel Everywhere, The Beatles, The Scene, Trailers, TV Shows, UFC, USA NOW, Vevo, Vimeo, Weather Channel, Willow, WSJ Live, WWE Network, Yahoo Screen, Young Hollywood and YouTube.

It is important to note that some channels require a paid subscription, while others need to be activated with a cable or satellite provider. Many Apple TV channels offer completely free content, with no strings attached. For a complete list, description and price of every Apple TV channel, read “Apple TV Channels”. If you’re looking for a quick reference of Apple TV channel costs, check out “Apple TV Channels by Cost”.

While this is a lot of free content, there’s a lot more to watch if you beam content from your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or computer using AirPlay. This article focuses on the iOS ecosystem — Apple TV with the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. If you have a Mac or PC and use AirPlay screen mirroring, you have even more free content at your fingertips. All of these content sources work with Apple TV, although you may need an iOS device to access them. Since these apps are so easy to use, I won’t be exploring their features in depth. Information is provided for enabling AirPlay and viewing this content in full-screen mode. Video quality is rated for each content provider.

The video quality assessments assume you will be using AirPlay and Apple TV on a flat screen TV. For most of these options, one can enjoy better picture quality by watching the shows directly on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. Like many people, I prefer to watch TV shows and movies on the big screen, while seated comfortably.

ABC
Apple TV: iOS app supports AirPlay screen mirroring
Quality: below SD

ABC, along with most major networks (with the exception of FOX), allow access to their content from your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. The ABC app allows iOS users to watch full episodes of shows such as Dancing with the Stars, Scandal, Nashville, and more.

As with most major networks, the app is well designed, but there is little attempt to make it AirPlay friendly. In fact, many reviews in the App Store claim that these apps do not support AirPlay. They do offer indirect support for AirPlay through screen mirroring. To enjoy these shows on your Apple TV, simply turn on AirPlay screen mirroring on your iOS device. I recommend doing this before you start the app. Use the zoom feature on your flat screen TV to enable a full screen picture.

AirPlay Screen Mirroring

Slide your finger up from the bottom of any screen to reveal Control Center. From here, you can activate AirPlay and Mirroring.

The ABC app’s video quality is not great. It is below standard definition. If you are experiencing network issues, the video quality is pretty bad. If you use the zoom feature on your TV to fill the screen, you will experience even worse picture quality. If you require better picture quality, look for the show on Netflix, Hulu Plus, or iTunes.

The ABC app has commercials. As with most online content, the commercial breaks are shorter. Commercial breaks are less than one minute long. This allows you to watch a 30 minute show in less than 25 minutes. (continue…)

Watch ABC App for iPad

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20 thoughts on “Free Content for Apple TV

    • It is all free. Adult Swim has a gold member subscription, but they offer a ton of content for free. All of the other services are free. If you are talking about the built in Apple TV channels listed above, most of them are free or have some free content. I make this very clear in the Apple TV Channels article.

        • It is if they offer free content. If you are referring to the Adult Swim Gold membership, I don’t subscribe. I still find the app quite useful and it has a lot of free episodes. I use it all the time, and have never spent a dime. Every AirPlay capable iOS app listed in this article offers free content. Apart from Adult Swim and iTunes, the rest are completely free. I mention these because they offer quite a lot of free content. I have even downloaded whole seasons of TV shows for free on iTunes. They always have something to watch for free.

    • I agree entirely. There is nothing free about HBO. As soon as I hit that, I discounted the article and moved on. Apparently being able to tune it, have it tell you that you can’t watch anything without a subscription is your idea of ‘free’. It is not mine.

      • As you mention, you didn’t bother to read the article. You skimmed it, misinterpreted it, and moved on.

        What you read was information about two other articles in the introduction. According to my stats, these articles are what a lot of readers are looking for. I write and organize my site to be useful for most readers. I can’t satisfy everyone, especially people who don’t actually read the article.

        I never make the claim that everything on HBO is free. Not only did you not read the article, but you misinterpreted what I wrote. If you read the article, you would realize that HBO has a YouTube channel. It offers free episodes and other full-length HBO content. The focus of this article is using AirPlay to beam free content onto Apple TV. If you read it, you’d realize that even HBO provides some free content. Thus, there is something free about HBO. Using AirPlay, users can tap into an infinite well of free content. I wrote this because a lot people who are new to Apple TV don’t realize how useful AirPlay is.

        Your criticism is negated by the fact that you didn’t read the article. You skimmed it and “discounted the article and moved on”. Perhaps YouTube is a better medium for you.

  1. Could you tell us what channels etc you get without having cable/satelitte (but have internet access) connected as it seems most/if all need it?

    • That’s covered in the Apple TV Tips article. The scope of this article is iOS apps that provide free content to Apple TV via AirPlay. Plex doesn’t make content, so it doesn’t quite fit here.

      You can also import videos into iTunes, which integrates with Apple TV better. You can either beam them with AirPlay, or use Computers on Apple TV.

  2. I hope someone writes an article entitled “Apple TV Channels that Don’t Require a Cable Account Or Paid Subscription”. That needs two sections.: Channels in which all content is free and Channels in which some content is free.

  3. I do have a question if I am wanti,g to get rid of cable why should I get apple tv if some of the channels I want require a cable provider. Makes no sense..

    • I know, it doesn’t make sense. This is an phenomenon of the cable industry’s last, desperate attempt to hold on to their power. After all, they can’t offer a decent user experience. All they can do is use deals and collusion to keep some content exclusive. They are lagging so far behind technology, it’s pathetic.

      The fact is, pretty much any show or sport is available on Apple TV, even if you don’t have cable. Just don’t think in terms of channels, but instead, think of shows. If you watch a lot of HBO or Showtime shows, it may prove cost-effective to sign up for their online offerings, which do not require cable. Pretty much every show or movie is available on iTunes. Hulu also has a lot of TV shows and is a remarkable value. Every major sport has an app. However, if you are a TV and sports fanatic, the costs can add up, so cable may be more cost effective.

      I cancelled cable 5 years ago and never looked back. I am watching better content and paying a fraction of the price. When I had cable, I subscribed to HBO, but the on demand offerings were incomplete. For example, they would have only 3 seasons of Entourage, but only 8 episodes in each season. The first season only had 8 episodes, but the other ones had 14. So I had to subscribe to Netflix DVDs to fill in the missing episodes. Sometimes on demand wouldn’t work at all due to network issues. The cable UI was horrible. The remote was lame with each function being on a specific button. I had to scan the remote to find the right button. I am in the process of re-watching Entourage, realizing that I missed a lot of episodes. It’s kind of upsetting in a way, realizing how cable was not only a poor experience, but kept me from content I was paying for. I’ve spent the last year re-watching all of these HBO shows like Oz, Deadwood and Six Feet Under, because I missed so many episodes, thanks to the cable industry that still exists in the last century. I absolutely detest the cable industry and relish the fact that they will just be pushing bits pretty soon, and maybe not even that, as Google and others can easily provide better Internet access. The cable industry is one that deserves to crash and burn. They always stymied competition and it took years for consumers to just get one or two alternatives.

      I bought my first Apple TV almost 5 years ago, and back then it only had Netflix, YouTube and iTunes. I used my iPad to beam Hulu to Apple TV using AirPlay. Even back then, I was watching everything I wanted to watch and saving money. I also enjoyed a much better user experience. The new Apple TV and the abundance of services put the cord-cutter in a much better position.

    • Not everything on Apple TV requires a cable or satellite subscription. I cancelled cable over 5 years ago and use Apple TV instead. I do subscribe to a few services, but not more than one or two at a time. It’s so easy to drop and add a subscription.

      This article covers using AirPlay with Apple TV. I wrote this a few years ago, but it still applies to all models of Apple TV. I just wrote an entirely new article — “Watch Free TV Shows and Movies on Apple TV”. It covers the new Apple TV 4 and tvOS apps. With an App Store, the new Apple TV has far more free content. Services like Crackle, TubiTV and others offer advertising-subsidized movies and TV shows. They’re completely free and their content isn’t edited at all.

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