Hands-on with the upcoming Apple TV channels in the overhauled TV app

Apple today seeded first developer betas of iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 featuring a revamped experience within the TV app and all-new Apple TV channels discussed at Monday’s presser.

The software brings together the different ways to discover and watch shows, movies, sports, news and more in a single app. Apple’s moved a few things around to make navigation easier. Alongside the bottom, you’ll see three main tabs: Watch Now, Library and Search.

In the Watch Now tab, you’ll find a brand-new Kids experience with items categorized by character, topic and even age. Across the app, you’ll enjoy curated movie and show suggestions picked just from all your installed video apps.

Other dedicated selections are based on everything you’re watching from all the different apps you use. Personalized suggestions are available for content from over 150 streaming apps (like Amazon Prime and Hulu) and pay-TV services (like Canal+ and Charter Spectrum).

A dedicated Kids section brings the shows hand-picked just for children

But most importantly, a new Channels Highlights section in the Watch Now tab lets you purchase à la carte subscriptions to some of the channels Apple mentioned during the event.

The following channels are currently available:

  • Showtime ($11 per month)
  • Starz ($9 per month)
  • Smithsonian Channel ($5 per month)
  • Tastemade ($5 pre month)

Each channel includes a seven-day free trial before your credit card is charged, but you can always turn off auto-renewing subscriptions manually. Apple’s promised additional channels like MTV Hits, CBS All Access, HBO NOW, EPIX, Noggin and more. Additional channels will be added over time around the world. I know what you’re thinking, these “channels” are already available in the form of Apple TV apps so what’s the difference then?

One word: experience.

Go to the Search tab to see trending movies and TV shows

Apple is basically attacking what the television experience should be all about on two fronts. First, it’s building its own premium video-streaming service. And second, it’s simplifying subscribing to video apps. The channels feature is basically a skinny bundle that Eddy Cue & Co. have been attempting to put together for years, to no avail. Now you’ll be able to subscribe to just the apps you watch (channels is just a fancy name for specific video apps) from within the TV app itself without downloading any additional streaming apps whatsoever.

This isn’t possible with the current TV app: you must first download a video app (say, HBO NOW or Showtime) and sign up for the service through that app (or via their website, which adds another layer of friction) before you can see its content within the TV app.

And some apps, like Netflix, don’t integrate with the TV app at all.

Your rented and purchased movies and TV shows

And then when you do see something you like, attempting to watch yanks you out of the TV app and into the video app which serves the stream. With the new TV app, you’ll be able to subscribe to—and then watch a channel—no additional apps required whatsoever.

Channels can be watched offline and shared with up to six family members

This seamless subscription and playback experience is only available with select video services that have partnered with Apple on this initiative, with the deals most likely involving a smaller cut than Apple’s standard 15-30 percent fee on in-app subscriptions.

The new TV app brings faster navigation

To reiterate: the new TV app in iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 is more streamlined, lets you purchase and watch subscription content without downloading a video-streaming app while bringing together entertainment from multiple sources:

  • 100,000+ movies and TV shows from iTunes Store. Now you can buy, rent and watch right inside the app, as well as watch everything previously purchased via iTunes.
  • Content from popular streaming services like HBO NOW. Content from services that don’t integrate with the TV app, like Netflix, remains accessible via their dedicated apps.
  • Watch cable outside the box. If you’re subscribed to a cable service like AT&T’s DirecTV NOW, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, Spectrum or some such, log in with your existing credentials within the TV app to unlock the content you’re already paying for.
  • Apple’s original video programming, coming later this year.

To see the list of the video apps that support integration with the TV app, and enable or disable them individually, tap your profile image in the upper-right corner and choose Connected Apps from the list (the profile menu contains other shortcuts and features like subscription management, Apple ID account information and more.

Easily control third-party sources that serve content through the TV app

A support document on Apple’s website maintains a list of video apps that support the Apple TV app based on specific countries or regions.

The revamped experience is also available for the third-generation Apple TV using a new Apple TV software. Aside from bringing channel subscriptions to the third-generation streamer, the Apple TV software 7.3 beta also provides support for testing AirPlay from apps to the box.

The new tvOS 12.3 software brings Apple’s overhauled experience to the big screen

As part of its Hollywood pitch, Apple has said that its upcoming original video programming will be available to a massive audience. In addition to the installed base of more than one billion active iOS devices, both the TV app and AirPlay 2 technology are coming to major Smart TVs released in 2019 so people without any Apple hardware will still be able to tune in.

The new TV app is coming to iPhone, iPad and Apple TV in 100+ countries with a free software update in May, and to Macs this fall. It’ll be available on Samsung’s Smart TVs beginning this spring and on Amazon’s Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony and Vizio platforms in the future.

To learn more, visit apple.com/apple-tv-app.

And when the Apple TV+ service launches later this year, the TV app will be updated again with support for Apple’s original video programming.

Thoughts on the new TV experience and Apple TV channels?

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