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.

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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  • Interested in tvOS apps for the new Apple TV? Check out “Apple TV tvOS Apps”. The article features top 10 free and paid Apple TV apps, in addition to a video displaying every tvOS app in the Apple TV App Store. UPDATED MONTHLY
  • “Apple TV 4: The Unofficial Manual” is now available. Learn more about how to use your new Apple TV 4. It’s also a great resource for those considering purchasing a new Apple TV 4.
  • Apple TV 4, the long-awaited update to Apple TV hardware, is coming soon. Read more about Apple’s new television set-top streaming device.
  • New article – “Apple TV Games”: 10 games you can play on Apple TV with Dual Screen AirPlay.
  • Find out more about every Apple TV Channel. Read “Apple TV Channels”.
  • Bloomberg, Crackle, ABC and KORTV have just been added to the Apple TV lineup. While ABC requires a cable subscription for activation, the other channels are free. For more information, check out this article.
  • Find out how to get the most out of your Apple TV. Check out 30+ tips that will improve your Apple TV experience.
2nd Gen AirPods at Amazon for $119


  1. The biggest issue with Apple TV device, and for that matter Netflix too is that if you want to watch something on your smart TV after watching on one of these it is a real pain the arse to get navigate away from it and back on to your regular TV. If you turn off while watching…low and behold you are taken back to it when you turn back on.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I know what you mean. I think TVs and related devices could use a massive improvement.

      The most frustrating thing for me is the Siri Remote. I have a love/hate relationship. Awesome for playing Asphalt 8, but for navigating the tvOS UI, it’s a real chore.

      Your issue is more about the inputs. I pretty much only use Apple TV, so it’s useful to hear your experience.

  2. I just bought an Apple TV 4K. I can see that my Apple TV+ subscription appears to be just what APPLEDYSTOPIA says it is. But, to be honest, I bought this to replace my old Amazon Fire TV stick, and it feels like it’s 50X faster than the stick because it connects directly to my home LAN (I don’t use the WiFi). I view the Apple TV 4K box as something to interface my TV with my LAN; and I view the Apple TV+ subscription as a separate product.

    I’ll still have to wait and see if the Apple TV+ brings happiness, but the speed alone was worth the investment in the box and the future of TV. And I still have Amazon Prime access, but blazingly fast now.

    1. Apple TV should be fast, as they use fairly recent A-series processors in every hardware update.

      Yes, Apple TV+ is like their version of Netflix. You can watch it on lots of different devices, not just Apple TV.

      I enjoy gaming on Apple TV. I really liked Asphalt 8 a lot. The way the controller integrates with game play — just like steering a car — is simply amazing.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. so i want to know without all the sales pitches
    what can you watch on AppleTV with out paying anymore the the $4.99 a month…
    a list would be great! attempted to read the above and totally felt it was a sales gimic to fool you into buying AppleTv

    you see with Netflix we can get an honest answer.
    movies and shows….. that’s all a want to know
    Hulu, CBSallaccess, HBO are all extra….and are there any college sports that are included in the $4.99 a month?
    also with Netflix i can still get movies on DVD….. if i so choose…..and Amazon Prime seems to have a better offering of what it provides but with it you even have to have subscription to watch Hulu or the others…. so can someone actually list what is really included with the $4.99 only? thank you!

  4. The article does list “HBO” under the “FREE CONTENT FOR APPLE TV”, so do not say it is misinterpreted. It is there in plain sight. 99.99% of the people, including myself, will only need to know how to read to assume that HBO is included as part of the free content if I read this article. There is no misinterpretation. You could have simply put “HBO* ” followed by *HBO tv channel is not included, only the HBO YouTube channel. You can’t misinterpret something you can read literally.

    1. It does not. There is no section in this article labelled “HBO”. Under the YouTube section, I mention that HBO has some free episodes. YouTube is free.

      “You can’t misinterpret something you can read literally.”

      You proved yourself wrong. You managed to misinterpret something one can read literally. You even admit that I wrote that the YouTube channel has free HBO episodes. Can you quote the line where I claim HBO is free on Apple TV? Do you know how to copy and paste text? You don’t even have an out-of-context quote to abuse on this one.

      Public education is free. I suggest improving those reading comprehension skills.

      99.99% of the population does not agree with you. This article has been read by almost 600,000 people, yet you seem to be the only one claiming that the article says HBO is free. You may want to consider improving your math skills as well. 1 out of 600,000 basically rounds to zero. It’s statistically insignificant. I guess I shouldn’t even spend any more time on this…

    1. AirPlay is a free technology provided by Apple. It allows users to beam virtually anything to Apple TV. If you can watch it for free on your device, you can typically beam it to Apple TV. There are a few companies who have disabled or hobbled AirPlay on iOS, but not many. With a Mac or Windows PC, you can beam anything to Apple TV. (You may have to purchase an AirPlay app for Windows, but anything on iTunes can be beamed to Apple TV using its included AirPlay technology.)

      The network apps that require a TV provider subscription are not free, but many of them offer free content. This gets better every day. I don’t have a TV provider. I am a cord cutter. I still use these network apps, without activation and without paying anything. For example, Comedy Central allows me to watch the newest episodes of their top shows for free. NBC is even more generous.

      Then there are excellent apps like Crackle and Tubi, where people can watch free TV shows and movies. You have to watch commercials, however, there are fewer ads than on cable. Movies on Crackle are also uncensored and unedited, unlike their chopped-to-pieces cable counterparts. I’m a huge Crackle fan.

      Every day, I see more and more networks, like the CW, who are forgoing the TV provider requirement. They monetize their content with ads and others are following suit.

      There’s a lot of free content on Apple TV. Yes, when you launch it for the first time, it is just iTunes Movies and TV Shows. Launch the App Store and you’ll find tons of free content.

    1. You probably didn’t bother to read the article or the linked articles. This article focuses on how to use AirPlay to watch free content. I also linked to another article about native tvOS apps that have free content. Apps like Crackle and Tubi are totally free. The viewer just has to watch commercials. You simply discredit yourself by claiming that “there’s nothing free about Apple TV”.

      As Apple TV evolves, there is actually more free content today than there was a year ago. The networks are starting to realize that they can monetize streaming just as they do with broadcast or cable TV — with advertising.

    1. This is a very good question, and unfortunately, it leaves me with more questions than answers. India uses 220v power, and we use 110v in the US. This is no problem, as Apple TV’s power supply is universal. You will probably need a new power cord, however, as the wall receptacles differ.

      The trickier situation is how your Apple ID will be handled when you are in the US. You will probably have access to all US apps and content, as these restrictions are based on IP address. If not, you can always create a new Apple ID. Just go to the Apple ID website, create a new ID and use it on your Apple TV. I don’t think you will need to do this.

      I think your biggest hurdle will be streaming anything on hotel wifi. In my experience, it is dead slow.

      A better alternative may be to just buy a lightning to HDMI cable and use this to play content from an iPhone or iPad directly onto the hotel’s TV. If you can’t get decent wifi in the hotel, you can use a cellular connection.

      Good luck! I hope you have a great time here.

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