Free Content for Apple TV

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

The CBS app is similar to apps created by other major networks. It offers full episodes of popular shows such as Person of Interest, VegasElementary and many others. The app works smoothly and is well designed. The video quality is not great. You need to use AirPlay screen mirroring to view it on your flat screen TV.

As with most content providers, there are advertisements. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, after all. With TV commercials, you pay with your time, unlike web banner ads. It’s a small price to pay. If you want better quality without ads, you can purchase the show on iTunes or wait for it to come out on Netflix. Hulu Plus offers better quality, however, they subsidize content costs through advertising.

CBS iPad App

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

NBC provides an iOS app that features full episodes of popular shows such as The Voice, Chicago FireRevolution and many more. Like the other major network apps, you must use AirPlay screen mirroring to view it on your television. When I first tested this app, I was able to get proper AirPlay support by turning on the main AirPlay control, without screen mirroring. I was excited when the first part of the stream, an advertisement, appeared on my Apple TV without screen mirroring. It had excellent video quality! Unfortunately, as soon as the program began, AirPlay only played the audio track. Use AirPlay screen mirroring as a workaround, and zoom your television to get a full picture. The video quality leaves much to be desired.

Like all the major networks, there are commercials. The commercial breaks are shorter than on broadcast or cable TV.

NBC App for iPad

Apple TV: iOS app directly supports AirPlay
Quality: below SD to SD

Once again, public broadcasting has surpassed the corporate media, offering excellent content with a superior app. The PBS app for iOS, particularly the iPad, is beautiful and well designed. It is a treasure trove of free content, updated daily. I use this app regularly to watch the PBS NewsHour, which is updated every night.

The PBS app features shows like Downton Abbey, Frontline, Nova, and just about everything the network has to offer. It’s free, but donations are accepted. I used the app to watch season 3 of Downton Abbey, which wasn’t available on Netflix or Hulu Plus. I could have purchased it on iTunes, but thanks to this wonderful app, it wasn’t necessary.

PBS does not offer every episode of each program. For each show, there are a limited number of episodes, which expire as new episodes are posted. Watch them while you can. One can set up notifications to inform when episodes are about expire. The app contains mostly new episodes that are posted shortly after they have aired on television. (continue…)

PBS App for iPad

UPDATE: PBS is now on Apple TV. The new Apple TV channel offers over 5,000 hours of video programming, updated daily. Find out more…

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  1. So can I use the regular CBS and NBC app on the apple TV instead of the Airplay method for the same content for free?

    1. CBS offers the CBS All Access app on Apple TV 4, which costs $6 a month. Beyond clips, they don’t offer anything for free. They expect you to pay $6 a month and watch ads too. You can get it commercial free for $10/mo. That’s a lot of money for one channel. They do give you access to everything on CBS — live and on demand. But again, it’s just one channel. They’re also notorious for not playing well with the cable-over-the-Internet providers such as Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW and PlayStation Vue. They do offer CBSN, a live, 24/7 news channel, for free on Apple TV. It’s pretty good. I watch it in the morning.

      As for NBC, it requires activation with a cable or satellite provider for full access. The cable-over-the-Internet providers do offer NBC in their channel lineups.

      If you’re looking for a cable experience on Apple TV, check out Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DIRECTV NOW. Unfortunately, with missing channels and blocked programming, they’re not as good as cable.

      In general, since these TV appliances (Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, NVIDIA SHIELD, Amazon Fire TV) are new, some networks are taking advantage of this and playing hardball with negotiations. If anyone needs to look for a sign that corporate greed is getting worse, look no further. CBS, in particular, is notorious for not offering their channel on these services. They want people to pay $6-10 for one channel. Come on, it’s network TV. The Big Bang Theory and their other shows are pretty good, but not that great. It’s not Game of Thrones. I have no problem paying $15 a month for HBO NOW. Paying $6 for CBS, with commercials, is a bit too much to ask.

      Hulu will be launching a cable-over-the-Internet channel bundle soon. They even got CBS on board. Unfortunately, it will only have a dozen or so channels for $40. That’s a very skinny bundle. But they are giving people the best of TV. I’m assuming it will also have their vast on-demand library and access to all of the other Hulu content. Given their experience with streaming, it should be pretty stable and usable. One thing that bothers me about some of these new services is that you can’t fast forward or rewind on demand shows. Seriously. They do that so you can’t skip commercials. Hulu has this figured out. They allow people to randomly access a program, yet still see ads.

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