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The Bloomberg channel for Apple TV offers 24 hour live news and video on demand. News content focuses on business and finance, but also offers technology, lifestyle and political coverage. The 24 hour live feed features some infomercials in the late evening and early morning, but viewers can watch on demand content at any time.
The user interface is intuitive and easy to use. The live broadcast is accessible from the top menu bar. From here, the viewer can browse the programming schedule and watch the live stream. On demand content can be browsed by program or using the search feature.
Overall, Bloomberg is a great addition to Apple TV. For those who want to keep up with the stock market and financial news, this channel is essential.
Tip: The Bloomberg app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch is a great way to get stock quotes and financial news.
Apple TV is coming closer to a cord-cutters dream, or perhaps nightmare, depending on how you look at it. For $5.99 a month, viewers can subscribe to CBS All Access. The service provides access to CBS programming, something most people can get for free with an antenna. Viewers will still have to sit through commercials, even though they’re paying for the service. If you subscribe to cable, satellite or telco (U-Verse), you’re out of luck. CBS All Access is subscription only. Without a subscription, viewers can only watch clips. The user interface does not clearly inform users which content requires a subscription. Users are presented with a pay wall after drilling down into a video.
CBS came into being when United International Broadcasters Inc. was purchased and renamed as the Columbia Broadcasting System in 1928. The company started with 16 radio stations and grew into the large television and radio network we know today. The company is currently owned by National Amusements, which owns CBS’s controlling interest, Sumner Redstone.
The main CBS screen resembles most Apple TV channels. A scrolling marquee displays promoted content at the top of the screen. Beneath the marquee, videos are arranged in a grid, grouped by categories. The categories include Primetime Episodes, Daytime Episodes, Late Night Episodes, TV Classics, Latest Clips and Popular Clips.
The Shows screen presents almost 100 series, from past to present. The collection of content is actually impressive and is complimentary to services like Hulu and Netflix. Viewers can enjoy all of the latest CBS programs, in addition to older shows like Star Trek, Taxi, Family Ties and Perry Mason. Television fanatics might find the All Access price worthwhile. Also, compared to buying one season of a CBS show on iTunes, the All Access pass is reasonable, but more expensive than getting CBS for free over the air. When you drill down into a show, you can see the individual episodes. Selecting an episode will display a summary and whether the show requires a CBS All Access pass. Apart from clips, all shows require CBS All Access.
The CBS channel for Apple TV offers live, streaming television from your local affiliate. This is a great way to get local programming and news. The Live TV screen displays a scrollable schedule of upcoming CBS programs.
There is no search functionality on the CBS channel. This is surprising and disappointing. We can only hope they add this feature soon. With almost 100 shows, it can be a bit of a chore to sift through TV shows. There’s also no recently watched screen, watch list, or any way to quickly access preferred content. Given the $5.99/mo price for access, these features should be offered to subscribers.
The Settings menu provides the ability to manage your subscription, get help, submit feedback, view legal agreements and view network information. You can purchase CBS All Access directly from iTunes and also get a one week free trial. If you subscribe from the CBS website, you can get a 30 day free trial. Those interested in a free trial have to act fast. These offers don’t last long. Information and feedback on the settings menu is only provided as web URLs. This is a clumsy way to provide information. Users are expected to type in long URLs and email addresses in order to look up information, provide feedback or ask for help. The CBS channel for Apple TV could use a lot of improvement. Even for an initial release, it seems rushed, lackluster and absent of necessary functionality.
Price: limited free content; $5.99/mo subscription;
Tip: If the subscription price is too steep, try accessing CBS using an antenna.
The Columbia Broadcasting Service started with five-minute news broadcasts back in 1929. From these humble origins, it grew into one of the largest providers of news. Shows such as 60 Minutes and the CBS Evening News are popular and have been informing viewers for decades. CBS now offers its news content on Apple TV.
The ubiquitous scrolling marquee is absent from the CBS News channel’s main screen. Instead, users are presented with a grid of video icons arranged by categories such as CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning, U.S. and World. While the video quality is excellent, some of the audio is surprisingly thin, being compressed for faster streaming. The main screen offers users a convenient way to navigate top news stories.
If you prefer a continuous live stream of news coverage, the recently launched CBSN service is ideal. From the top menu, users can select CBSN and then choose whether to watch the live stream or view previously aired content. This service was recently launched and is experiencing growing pains. At the time of this writing, I was unable to watch the live stream. I also had trouble with the previously aired programming. As with many new Internet ventures, it will take some time to provide reliable streaming, as capacity planning is difficult to estimate before a launch. Nonetheless, this is a promising feature.
Viewers can browse content organized by shows from the Shows menu. Popular CBS News shows include CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning, and 60 Minutes. Shows are organized into clips, but will automatically play the next clip for continuous viewing. The Topics menu allows viewers to browse clips organized by topics, such as U.S., World, Politics, Entertainment and Health. CBS News also offers a search feature.
Tip: Check out the live CBSN stream for the most recent coverage of breaking news.
Sports fans without cable or satellite subscriptions can enjoy free clips and sports updates on Apple TV. The CBS Sports channel provides sports coverage without the need for activation with a TV provider. If you’re looking for live games or full-length replays, they are noticeably absent from this simple channel. It’s a great way to check up on your favorite sport and get scores, highlights, interviews and analysis.
CBS began broadcasting televised sports in the early 1950s. In 1951, the CBS affiliate WCBS-TV broadcast the Dodgers vs. Braves game in color. Sporting coverage grew over time, and CBS Sports became its own organization, covering virtually every sport. The CBS Sports channel on Apple TV covers just about every sport. Just don’t expect to watch the game on this channel.
The main Featured screen offers the typical scrolling marquee with featured sports coverage. Below the marquee, videos are organized by categories such as Most Popular, Latest and other current subjects. The videos are all short clips, mostly under five minutes long. Video quality is good, however, audio quality is substandard. The CBS News Apple TV channel also offers substandard audio quality. Once a video clip has finished, the next one will commence playing. This makes up for the short duration of clips. You can start videos in the Latest category to get a virtual sports news broadcast.
The Fantasy menu offers information helpful to fantasy sports participants. If you play fantasy baseball, football or other sports, you can research players using the clips on this menu. Clips from CBS Sports programs are available from the Shows menu. Viewers can browse clips organized by shows such as Boomer & Carton, Jim Rome and the Doug Gottlieb Show.
There is some innovation on this simple Apple TV channel. The Sports menu features a menu of sports on the left. It is a clean, simple design with graphical icons for each sport. Selecting a sport on the left will populate the grid of videos on the right. Since there is no search feature on this Apple TV channel, the Sports menu is the easiest way to browse videos by sport. There is no settings menu. Overall, the channel is simple and limited, but accessible to all for free.
Tip: The Fantasy menu offers a clean and concise way to research players for fantasy football, baseball and basketball.
The Consumer News and Business Channel, also known as CNBC, began broadcasting in 1989. The channel is owned by the NBCUniversal News Group, which was recently acquired by Comcast. CNBC focuses on business and financial news. Popular shows include Mad Money, Power Lunch and Squawk Box. CNBC is one of several news channels available on Apple TV.
The main screen displays a scrolling marquee with featured programs. Below the marquee, viewers can browse the latest news, top news and other categories. CNBC’s live feed is available from the top menu. This features 24 hour programming. The schedule is displayed on the right side of the screen. In the early hours of the morning, CNBC offers different content, such as music and fashion-oriented programming.
Other menu options include Business News and Prime. Business News features on demand programs originally broadcast on CNBC. The Prime menu offers shows covering other topics, such as American Greed, Crime Inc., and Restaurant Startup. Viewers can also search CNBC to find a specific program.
Price: free with cable, satellite, or telecom subscription; video clips are free for everyone
Tips: If you don’t have a TV provider that supports activation, you can get business news on Apple TV from Bloomberg or WSJ Live.
The Cable News Network, or CNN, launched as the first 24-hour news channel in 1980. It was also the first all news channel available on cable television. From these humble beginnings, CNN quickly grew into one of the largest cable channels. At its peak, CNN was available to over 100 million U.S. households.
Competition and difficulties adapting to the digital world have caused CNN’s viewership to decline in recent years. Currently, there are about 96 million households that receive CNN. In an effort to reinvent the channel, CNN added shows that go beyond news, such as Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and Morgan Spurlock’s Inside Man. CNN has also attempted to capture the digital audience with a website, mobile apps and now an Apple TV channel. Unfortunately, one must subscribe to a television provider to fully activate their digital portals.
The CNNgo channel for Apple TV presents a familiar user interface. The main screen features a scrolling marquee and video icons arranged in a grid. Viewers can quickly access top news, popular videos and fringe news stories (“Behind the News”). Videos featured on the main screen do not require activation with a TV provider (cable, satellite or telco). From the top menu, one can quickly access Live TV, Shows, Must See, Search and Settings.
Live TV offers the live CNN broadcast. The screen also features a complete schedule of upcoming programs. Viewers must activate CNNgo with a TV provider in order to view the live broadcast.
The Shows screen offers convenient access to popular CNN shows such as Anderson Cooper 360, Fareed Zakaria GPS and Inside Politics. Access to these shows requires activation with a TV provider.
The Must See menu allows viewers to browse news stories by category selections available at the top of the screen. It also offers the same featured videos available on the main screen. Must See videos are available to all viewers without activation.
The Search menu offers easy access to videos by using the Apple TV search interface. At first glance, this feature doesn’t appear to work, as typing in a few letters doesn’t produce results. If you type in a whole word, such as “Obama”, you will see search results. Presumably, this is to limit the number of search results returned, however, this is poorly implemented and confusing. I thought the search feature was broken.
Activation and access to the legal agreements are available through the Settings menu. Users can also read information about closed captioning.
Price: requires activation with TV provider (cable, satellite, telco); video clips are available without activation
Tip: Not getting any search results? Make sure to type in a complete word.
Sony Picture’s Crackle channel is a great way to watch free content on your Apple TV. I like to think of it as the poor man’s Hulu Plus. Crackle features free HD movies and TV shows, subsidized with commercials.
Crackle’s selection may leave something to be desired, but there’s always a few programs worth watching. The content is uncut and unedited, however, viewers will be interrupted with the occasional commercial break.
Users can browse Crackle’s content by movies, shows, and watchlists. Watchlists are a mash-up of recommendations and genres. There is no search functionality. Given the limited selection, it’s easy enough to browse the entire video collection. Users can sign up for a free Crackle account, allowing them to save favorite programs to a Watchlist.
Tip: If you see something you like, watch it as soon as possible. On average, programs are retained on Crackle for five months.
Apple TV can connect to the iTunes Library on a Mac or PC, enabling playback of media files stored on a networked computer. This feature requires that Home Sharing is turned on in iTunes. Make sure that iTunes is running on your computer before you use this feature.
The Computers channel allows you to “pull” content onto your Apple TV, as opposed to “pushing” it using AirPlay. It’s especially convenient if your content is on a computer located in another room. It’s also a great way to listen to that enormous iTunes collection of music on your Mac or PC. You’ll even see the album cover displayed on Apple TV.
The user interface enables easy browsing of your iTunes Library. Moving the cursor to the Computers channel displays frequently accessed content on the top marquee. Users can drill down into their iTunes Library by clicking on the Computers channel. From the Computers menu, one can browse music, movies, TV shows, home videos (movies imported into iTunes) and podcasts.
Tip: Import mp4 video files into iTunes and watch them on your Apple TV using the Computers channel. (continue…)
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