Apple TV Devices

Live TV On Apple TV: How It Works And Options

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Apple TV doesn’t have live TV itself, but can easily be used to access live TV channels and content by downloading additional apps. In fact, Apple has designed its streaming player in a way that it can easily be used instead of a dedicated cable or satellite set-top box. For those without an existing live TV plan, there are a number of services that provide no-contract access to live TV channels and are compatible with an Apple TV player.

The Apple TV app does come with the ability to add what the company calls ‘Apple TV channels.’ However, these are not actual channels in the traditional sense and won’t replace a live TV plan. Instead, these channels can be thought of as streaming apps without the actual apps. Rather than downloading an app, consumers can subscribe to one of the supported channels and then access that service’s content from within the Apple TV app. This can help to save on the number of apps installed on a device and can help with certain network channels. However, the same feature does not work with live TV provider apps.

Apple TV players and the Apple TV app don’t include live TV by default, so anyone wanting to watch live TV will need to download a dedicated live TV app like Sling TV or YouTube TV. Whether a new or existing live TV subscriber, a live TV provider can also be linked to the Apple TV player. Once set up, the live TV provider will then be permanently linked (or until unlinked again) to the device making it easier to access live TV content on the streaming player.

The linking of a live TV provider can be done through the Apple TV’s settings menu and is a one-time process.

  1. Open the Apple TV Settings app
  2. Select ‘Choose Users and Accounts’
  3. Select ‘TV Provider’
  4. Click on ‘Sign In’
  5. Choose the provider
  6. Enter the TV provider email address and password
  7. Click ‘Continue’

Once on the ‘sign in’ screen, the user will be presented with the ability to type in the name of their live TV provider. They can then simply click on the provider name and continue the signing in process. Alternatively, users can scroll down through the entire list of supported providers to find the correct one. If a live TV provider is not shown in the list, it is likely that the ability to link that particular provider with an Apple TV device is not supported.

How Apple TV’s provider linking works

The process of linking a live TV provider does not remove the need for an app to be downloaded. Instead, it links the user’s Apple TV player to their live TV account, and this makes it easier to then quickly sign in to other apps. Many live TV services come with TV Everywhere support for accessing third-party apps, and this is where linking to an Apple TV can be benefitial.

As an example of how the process works, a subscriber to a live TV plan that includes Hallmark and FX can download the dedicated Hallmark and FX apps for access to additional content that might not be available through the live TV service’s main app. This is where TV Everywhere support comes in as this is the process used to authenticate a subscription. By linking a TV provider to an Apple TV player, the user won’t have to manually sign in to all of these apps each time they are downloaded. Instead, the Apple TV will automatically take care of all this.

While the option to link a provider includes many traditional cable and satellite providers, it also includes some of the more popular live TV streaming services as well. For example, an Apple TV user can easily link their DirecTV Stream, Hulu, Sling TV, or YouTube TV account using the same method described above and take advantage of the same TV Everywhere support and benefits. For those without an existing live TV plan, these live TV streaming services can easily be downloaded on an Apple TV player and come with many advantages.

While the price is not always that different to a cable or satellite plan, streaming services like DirecTV Stream, Hulu, Sling TV, and YouTube TV offer a no-contract approach to live TV, making it easy to sign up, watch live TV for as long as needed, and then cancel again. All without having to worry about any long-term contracts or cancellation fees. Of course, if switching readily between live TV streaming services, the Apple TV user will want to make sure they unlink the original live TV provider and link the new one to continue to reap the same benefits.

Live TV on Apple TV summary

Neither an Apple TV player nor the Apple TV app include live TV, so users will need to download a dedicated live TV app to watch live TV channels and content. Apple TV players do come with a feature that allows the user to link their existing live TV provider account to the device at the system level. By doing this, the user can quickly and easily sign in to any live TV app connected to their live TV plan. This not only includes the actual app for the live TV service, but also specific channel and network apps as well, making it a feature worth taking advantage of.

The ability to link an Apple TV player to a live TV provider is not just for traditional cable and satellite customers, but also those signed up to a live TV streaming service as well. However, not all providers are supported so consumers will need to check for their individual provider. Not to mention, if routinely changing between providers to save on the cost or to improve the selection of channels, they will need to manually remove the linked account and link their new live TV provider to their Apple TV device.

John Finn
John Finn

By John Finn

John Finn is the Founder and Editor of Streaming Better, a platform created in 2019 to help consumers navigate the complicated live TV streaming and subscription service market.

John has been covering technology for various online publications since 2014. After originally covering the wider tech industry as a writer and editor, John now spends his time focusing on the emerging video-streaming market, including live TV streaming, SVOD, AVOD, FAST, and TVOD services.

In a bid to keep up to date on the industry, John actively subscribes to multiple streaming services at the same time. However, John continues to advocate that the best approach for consumers is to rotate between streaming services as needed.

A Psychology graduate from England, who now lives in the US, John previously worked in the aviation industry as an airline reviewer. While reviewing airlines isn't quite the same as reviewing devices and streaming services, John brings the same analytical eye to all of his reviews and industry analysis, along with a special emphasis on what's best for the consumer.

Connect with John
X: @J_Finns

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