UPDATED: December 21, 2020
- Apple TV is both a device and an app, with Apple TV+ designating a video subscription service.
- Second and Third generation Apple TV’s don’t support the App Store but instead come pre-installed with “channels”.
- Apple TV channels can be free, require a cable subscription for activation, or require a monthly fee.
- Owners of second and third-generation Apple TV models can beam almost any content to their TV from their iPhone or iPad using AirPlay.
By popular demand, this article presents Apple TV channels ordered by cost.
NOTE: This article covers Apple TV channels for the 2nd and 3rd generation models. The new Apple TV 4 features an App Store with thousands of apps, many of which are content channels.Interested in Apple TV 4 and tvOS? Check out these articles:
- Apple TV tvOS Apps – Features the top 10 free and paid tvOS apps and a YouTube video with every tvOS app in the App Store.
- Watch Free TV Shows and Movies on Apple TV – A review of several free tvOS content apps for Apple TV 4.
- Apple TV 4: The Unofficial Manual – A collection of articles to help you get the most out of Apple TV 4.
Appledystopia Heard You!
I listen to my readers. They often put forth constructive criticism and good advice. The “Apple TV Channels” article offers a more verbose narrative describing each channel. It’s a great read if you want details on each Apple TV channel. Unfortunately, this presentation made it difficult for readers to get a quick glance of Apple TV channel costs.
Some readers contend that most Apple TV channels require a TV provider (cable, satellite, U-verse). This is actually a misconception. Several channels require a TV provider, but most do not. A lot of the TV provider-bound or subscription channels also offer some free content.
As a cord-cutter, I considered how I could elucidate this discrepancy. Readers were getting lost in the narrative and their heuristic tally of channel costs was seemingly inaccurate. Offering this data in a tabular format should make it clear — there’s a lot of free content on Apple TV. The channels are ordered by increasing cost, with free channels first and subscription channels last. Let’s take a look at what the cost categories mean.
Free Apple TV Channels
A free Apple TV channel is just that — gratis. There are no subscription charges. You will not need to activate the channel with a TV provider for access. I watch these free channels all the time, and many of them are excellent. PBS, for example, is a treasure trove of excellent content. I often stay informed with ABC News, Sky News or other free news channels. Both Sky News and CBS News offer 24/7 live, streaming news for free. PBS does require free activation on their website. This provides access to your local PBS affiliate’s content.
Limited Free Content; Requires TV Provider
Some Apple TV channels offer free content, but require activation with a TV provider for full access. These channels typically offer short clips, sports scores and stats. Some offer full episodes of TV shows. Cord-cutters can enjoy some free content on these channels.
Limited Free Content; Requires TV Provider; Extra Content with Subscription
Tennis Channel Everywhere offers three tiers of access. Viewers can enjoy some free content. A TV provider subscription offers more content. A Tennis Channel Plus subscription enables access to even more content. Tennis Channel Everywhere is the only Apple TV Channel in this cost category.
Limited Free Content; Subscription
A subscription service charges a monthly or annual fee for access. Viewers do not need a TV provider to access these channels. They can subscribe to the channel directly. Some of these channels offer free content without a subscription. This is most common with sports channels, which tend to offer clips, highlights and stats for free.
Limited Free Content; iTunes Purchase
iTunes TV shows generally require a purchase. If you browse the iTunes store on your iOS device or computer, you can find free TV episodes. Accessing these free episodes on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or computer will present them as “purchases” on your Apple TV. From there, they can be viewed directly on Apple TV. You can also beam them from your device to Apple TV using AirPlay.
Limited Free Content; Subscription; Pay-Per-View
UFC offers some free content, but requires a subscription for more complete access. Pay-per-view events are not covered by the subscription costs. These pricing tiers are specific to the UFC channel.
Requires TV Provider
Only a few Apple TV channels will stonewall viewers who don’t have a TV provider. These channels offer absolutely no free content. When you access the channel, you are instructed to activate with your TV provider.
iTunes Rental or Purchase
iTunes Movies are available for rent or purchase directly on Apple TV. You can also purchase these on any device that offers the iTunes store and play them on your Apple TV using the same Apple ID.
Apart from the free (and controversial) U2 album, iTunes music must be purchased. Any iTunes song or album you have purchased will be presented on the Music channel in Apple TV.
Subscription channels require a monthly or annual fee for access. Netflix is the most popular example of an Apple TV subscription channel.
Apple TV Channels by Cost
The following table presents Apple TV channels ordered by cost. You can click on any channel to view more information.
|Red Bull TV||free|
|A&E||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|CNBC||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|CNNgo||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|Crunchyroll||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|ESPN||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|FOX NOW||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|FX NOW||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|FYI||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|HBO GO||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|History||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|Lifetime||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|NatGeo TV||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|NBC||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|NBC Sports Live Extra||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|Showtime Anytime||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|USA NOW||limited free content; requires TV provider|
|Tennis Channel Everywhere||limited free content; requires TV provider; extra content with subscription|
|CBS||limited free content; subscription|
|MLB.TV||limited free content; subscription|
|MLS||limited free content; subscription|
|NBA||limited free content; subscription|
|NFL||limited free content; subscription|
|NHL||limited free content; subscription|
|TV Shows||limited free content; iTunes purchase|
|UFC||limited free content; subscription; pay-per-view|
|ABC||requires TV provider|
|Disney||requires TV provider|
|Disney Junior||requires TV provider|
|Disney XD||requires TV provider|
|Movies||iTunes rental or purchase|