Review: Channels – watch live TV on your Apple TV with an HDHomeRun [video]

By , Feb 1, 2016

Channels icon

If you want to watch live TV on your Apple TV with an HDHomeRun, you can go the free route by using Kodi, but Channels is by far the best live TV watching experience to be had on Apple TV. Not only does Fancy Bits’ Channels app allow you to watch live TV, but you can also pause and rewind local or cable TV directly from your Apple TV when paired together with an HDHomeRun.

If you’re unsure what an HDHomeRun is, or how it can help you, then be sure to check out our post on the device. In a nutshell, the HDHomeRun allows you to stream free (or paid) television over your home network. The Channels app can then acquire the stream made available by the HDHomeRun, and display it on your television.

At $14.99 for a limited time (normally $24.99), Channels isn’t cheap, but it’s a great-looking and overall solid experience for cord cutters. Have a look at our full video walkthrough for more details.

Here’s everything that Channels can do for you:

  • Auto discovery of HDHomeRun
  • Full HD streaming
  • Guide data
  • Pause, rewind and fast-forward live TV
  • Channel favoriting
  • Jump back to last channel
  • Browse what’s on other channels while watching TV
  • Manage HDHomeRun devices from channels
  • 5.1 surround sound support
  • Closed caption support

Once you have your HDHomeRun set up, it’s just a matter of downloading Channels to get started. Since the app auto detects your HDHomeRun box, there’s not much else needed in order to get started.

Channels Apple TV

One of the best things about Channels is its ability to pause, rewind, and fast-forward live TV. These features were provided as a part of the recent version 1.4 update, and thanks to the Apple TV’s on board storage, Channels can provide about 30 minutes of buffer time for scrubbing through a live TV show.


Another feature that makes Channels superior to any other live TV streaming solution is the interface. The interface is beautiful, minimalistic, and laid out in a logical manner. Channels features icons denoting what’s currently on the air, and what’s scheduled to air next. You can also view a programing guide that showcases all of the now-playing content on favorite channels directly from the Apple TV’s top shelf interface.

Channels has a few nifty tricks up its sleeve, such as the ability to quickly switch between two channels, and pull down an interface that displays info for other in-progress content. The EPG, or electronic programing guide, is accurate, and even includes “box art” for in-progress and upcoming shows. There’s no way to view a full list of the day’s scheduled content, but since there’s no DVR functionality built in, I’m not sure how much value having such a feature would add.

Channels Apple TV 2

The best thing that Channels has going for it is its easy setup. If you already have an HDHomeRun connected to your home network, it’s literally just a matter of installing the app from the Apple TV App Store to get going.

Sadly, Channels doesn’t feature an iOS app, which means that you can’t take the experience on the go with your iPhone or iPad. Here’s hoping that the folks over at Fancy Bits get enough support to warrant releasing an iOS version of the app with universal support in tow.

$14.99 is certainly higher than most Apple TV apps, but it’s a no brainer for HDHomeRun owners. True, Channels doesn’t feature the ability to save content to your Apple TV in true DVR-like fashion, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better HDHomeRun streaming solution for Apple’s new set top box.

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  • Mark Rosenthal

    What I need is a live TV solution for my basement (home theater) – where I can’t get an antenna signal.

    • This would work. Just put the antenna/router/homerun somewhere else. And stream.

    • QuarterSwede

      Can you run coax to the basement?

      My house is cable and satellite ready and when we cut the cord I installed a $80 HD antenna (long range) on the second story of my house and ran the cable to the cable hookup on the outside of the house. Now every room in my house has access to the HD antenna and every broadcast channel available in 75 miles.

      If I got this I’d be able to pause/play live TV once again.

  • JDB

    Heads up: According to Macworld, the price of Channels will rise to $25 on February 8th.

  • Mohammed Khaled

    There is a thing called moviebox. Download that on your jail broken phone and AirPlay the content to your Apple TV. Done! Much better experience for free without any additional devices.

  • You’re totally missing the point dude.

  • Tristan

    Most people don’t realize is that if you have a Cable internet connection these channels are broadcasted by law(all you would need is any hd Homerun Device. It even works if you have Fios (coax). No need for antenna’s on the roof.

    Just use a cable splitter to split that cable going into your cable modem and have it connect to the HD Homerun. Done.

  • I’m super excited for this! I’d love to get a 64GB Apple TV, and use the HDHomeRun to DVR all my shows.

    • E2jedi

      64 Gigs wouldn’t be good for much recording. They are working on a solution to hook a hard drive into your network but it’s been slow going so far.

  • Eddy Kim

    Supported, you’ll need the DVB version of the HDHomeRun (HDHR4-

    • Have you got it up and running on yours? Do you have to wait for channels to load/buffer much?