Owners of the second-generation Apple TV can now stream previously purchased TV shows directly from the iTunes Store, as well as watch videos from the popular video-hosting site Vimeo, thanks to a software update released on Monday.
Up until now, you could stream any TV shows purchased from the iTunes Store housed on a computer using Apple’s Home Sharing feature or via AirPlay. Both, however, require that the computer be turned on and accessible on your network—and that the files themselves are still on your hard drive. With this latest update, any TV shows you’ve purchased (or downloaded, in the case of free TV show episodes) are instantly available to stream over the Internet as what appears to be an extension of Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud functionality.
Under the TV Shows menu on the Apple TV’s home screen, you’ll now find a Purchased item at the top. On the Apple TV connected in the Macworld office, we were able to see a list of all shows purchased on the associated iTunes account, and play an episode of Lost. The quality of the HD episode was excellent on the HDTV we have.
The update also adds support for playing videos from Vimeo, a popular video-sharing website that offers HD hosting. Everything mostly worked as expected, although in our initial testing, the search function wasn’t working. I was able to log into my Vimeo account, see all of my hosted videos, and play them back as HD streams.
Apple now includes directly Vimeo upload support in both its iMovie and Final Cut Pro X video-editing applications, so including a viewing option on the Apple TV is both natural and welcome.
To update your Apple TV to the latest software, go to Settings -> General -> Update Software and follow the directions.
At the same time, Apple added the ability to re-download TV shows in iTunes and on iOS devices, as it already does with music, books, and apps.
[Updated at 11:35am pacific to include infomation about re-downloading TV shows on computers and iOS devices]