Update: December 2015 – The blog post below refers to the second and third generation Apple TV. The 4th generation Apple TV launched in September 2015 has it’s own App Store. In early December 2015 the BBC launched their own native Apple TV 4 BBC iPlayer App. You can simply download and use this from the Apple TV App Store. At this time there is no mention of this being ported back to the earlier Apple TV devices and this doesn’t seem likely. If you are still using one of the earlier Apple TV units then the blog post below will still work very well.
It’s really easy to use BBC iPlayer with the second generation Apple TV but to do it you’ll need an iPhone or iPod Touch. Just download the BBC iPlayer App free of charge from the Apple App Store. It’s a really great App. I really like the favourites function so you can mark the programmes you are interested in so that you can quickly get to them through the favourites menu. Check you’ve got the latest version of the BBC iPlayer application installed. To do this just find the App Store icon on your iPhone and make sure there are no pending updates.
When you start to play a programme you should then see the Apple Air Play icon on the bottom right of the display as shown above. Just press this and then select your Apple TV device from the list. If you don’t see your Apple TV device in the list then do a quick restart on the Apple TV. For some reason mine seems to drop off the network when it goes into power save mode. To do a restart go to the General menu on the Apple TV, scroll down to the bottom of that menu and select restart. If you then try the Air Play icon again you should see your Apple TV device and a few moments later the programme will start to play through your TV. At this point you can press the off switch on your iPhone to save the battery and you can control iPlayer using the Apple TV remote control.
For me this works brilliantly and we use it all the time now to watch iPlayer in our sitting room. It would still be great if one day the BBC and Apple could cooperate to bring iPlayer directly onto the Apple TV but for now this is nearly as good.
It January 2012 and Apple TV (second generation, also know as iTV) has taken three major leaps forward I the UK and really has become the heart of the AV setup in my sitting room.
First came iCloud support in the UK. I’d always been. Put off downloading films and TV shows in iTunes because I knew I’d soon run out of disk space. Now with iCloud you can delete the content when you’ve finished with it and download again from Apple if you ever want to watch it again. The Apple TV is actually even better than that. Instead of streaming the content from you Mac or PC it now streams the content from iCloud so you no longer need you Mac switched on. Indeed the average consumer no longer needs a Mac or PC in their home. It’s still annoying that photos can’t be stored in iCloud forever, as this is as far as I can see the only reason an average consumer still needs a PC or Mac. So for me the ability to buy content, not have to worry about storing it and backing it up whilst still having access on demand is really amazing.
The next great improvement came when the BBC updated their iPlayer App to support AirPlay. To watch BBC programmes I used to connect up my MacBook Air to the HDMI port on the TV which works but is a bit of an annoyance. Now I can just sit down with my iPad or iPhone, find the programme I want to watch on iPlayer and the press the AirPlay button to transfer it to the big screen and audio in the sitting room. This works really well and is amazing. I just hope that ITV and Channel 4 now catch up and allow this in their player apps.
Finally this week NetFlix have arrived in the UK. Netflix has been integrated into the Apple TV in the US since it launched. I immediately signed up for Netflix and enjoyed cancelling by LoveFilm subscription. Films and TV program’s stream smoothly from Netflix and are integrated really well into the Apple TV. I was really impressed that they have fully embraced the Apple TV menu system and maintained the whole Apple look and feel. Netflix isn’t perfect at the moment. They have a lot of content but equally lots of notable TV shows and films are missing. That said I’m sure that now they have launched in the UK they will quickly start putting the deals in place to make more content available in the UK. Either way it’s great for consumers that LoveFilm finally have a serious competitor in the UK. I’ll also happily live with Netflix because it’s integrated into the Apple TV so neatly.
For me, it’s as if very little changed during 2011 and then in the first few weeks of 2012 everything I’ve been waiting for arrived at once.