November 21, 2013 at 4:56 p.m. PST
A few days after the release of the 6.0.2 update, Apple TV added PBS and Yahoo Screen to its channel lineup. The PBS channel is loaded with thousands of hours of content, updated daily. Yahoo Screen adds short clips from a variety of content providers.
PBS for Apple TV
Apple TV just gets better and better. The addition of PBS is something I had been hoping for. Prior to this new arrival, I accessed PBS content using the PBS app for the iPad. It worked well, with AirPlay providing a decent picture on my flat screen TV. I regularly used this app to watch the PBS NewsHour and Downton Abbey.
With the addition of a proper channel for Apple TV, it’s much easier to watch PBS content. Everything is accessible using the simple remote. This is a better user experience than dealing with an iPad and AirPlay. The picture quality is better, offering HD video, as opposed to SD with the PBS app and AirPlay. (This isn’t a limitation of AirPlay — it supports HD video.)
One small gripe — the PBS NewsHour isn’t available until late in the evening. The PBS NewsHour is first broadcast at 3pm. It would be nice if they could add the content earlier. Also, Downton Abbey episodes will not persist on the PBS Apple TV channel. They will offer new episodes for a few days, and then they will be removed. Apparently, Amazon has exclusive streaming rights for the show. I find this hard to believe. I would think it will be available on iTunes. You can also get the DVD/Blu-Ray version if you pledge to your local PBS station. Season four of Downton Abbey will premiere in early January.
The PBS app requires activation in order to gain access. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost a dime. Simply go to the PBS website and enter the access code that appears on your TV screen.
You can sign in using Facebook or G+, or create a PBS account. I opted for the latter. You only need to provide your name, email address, password and zip code. After your zip code has been entered, you can pick a local affiliate station. This will provide access to local PBS programming.
The PBS Apple TV channel offers an excellent user interface. It uses the top menu bar layout, like Hulu Plus and Apple’s content channels. Users can add their favorite shows to the My Videos screen for easy access. When browsing content, the user can navigate by category or alphabetical order. The latter feature is unique to the PBS app. Users can also add videos to their Apple TV queue (My Videos) using the PBS website.
Overall the new PBS channel is well done. The video quality is excellent. The fact that you can access thousands of shows and local programming sets it apart from other Apple TV channels. It’s free, but expect to be asked for donations during pledge months. If you use the channel a lot, it’s a good idea to donate. PBS gets few resources from the government, and relies on donations and corporate underwriting to stay on the air and provide quality programming.
Yahoo Screen for Apple TV
I’m a lot less excited about Yahoo Screen. It’s a very simple content channel, comprised of short clips from networks like Comedy Central, The Onion, Wired and several more. The user interface is very simple. Users can only browse and search for short clips. It doesn’t even support adding favorites. The quality has much to be desired. When you play a clip, it starts off with poor quality, and improves, but it seems to be SD at best.
Some content is advertising disguised as a genuine clip. I played a clip from Wired and it was an advertisement for their upcoming issue. The problem is that it was made to look like real content. I don’t really care for Yahoo Screen. Yahoo is really struggling, but this doesn’t help. Yahoo Screen seems like a cheap trick, with advertising disguised as content.
How to Hide Channels You Don’t Use
Apple TV has a lot of great content. Every few months, more channels are added. Some of the offerings, like PBS, are excellent. Some aren’t worthy of the being on the menu screen. If you want to remove icons from the main menu, simply go to Settings > General > Restrictions. Scroll down the list and toggle “hide” for the channels you don’t use. It will make it easier to navigate what is now becoming a crowded main menu. For more Apple TV tips, check out this article.
Apple TV keeps getting better. If they could only offer HBO without a cable subscription, it would be perfect! Cable companies will work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.