With iOS 12.3, Apple is refreshing the TV app and adding a new feature called Apple TV Channels. Channels lets you subscribe to third-party streaming services like CBS All Access or HBO, right from within the TV app. You can watch that content in the TV app, served directly from Apple, without the need to install other apps.
Here’s everything you need to know about which services are available as Apple TV Channels, what they cost, and how they work.
How do I get Apple TV Channels?
This new feature isn’t available broadly just yet—Apple says it will launch in May along with a redesign of the TV app. That redesign (and a few early Channels) are available in the iOS 12.3 beta, so it’s safe to say that both the new TV app and Channels will launch together with iOS 12.3.
To get Channels, you’ll need to update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 12.3, or your Apple TV HD or Apple TV 4K to tvOS 12.3. The TV app is not yet available on macOS, but it’s coming later this year.
The TV app will also be available this year on Roku, FireTV, and smart TVs from several brands including Samsung, Sony, LG, and Vizio.
How do I subscribe to a Channel?
This part is easy. In the TV app on your iOS device or Apple TV, just scroll down in the main Watch Now tab—a list of channels should be prominently displayed. Most will have a button that says “Try it Free.” Selecting this brings up an in-app-purchase approval screen showing the length of the trial (usually one week) and the recurring subscription price after the trial is over.
When you’re browsing a Channel’s content (see below), you’ll be presented with Try it Free buttons on shows and movies, too.
How does playback work?
Once you’re subscribed to Channel, you’ll see shows and movies recommended directly in your Watch Now tab.
As you scroll down in the Watch Now tab, you’ll also see a horizontal list of Channels represented as circular icons. Select one and you’ll see everything available on that Channel (whether you subscribe to it or not).
Select a show, and you’ll see an info card showing seasons, episodes, cast and crew, and more, along with a prominent “Play” button. On Apple TV, you might see a different format, something like “Play first episode” and another button for “Add to Up Next.”
You can play content right here, directly, without having to install any other apps.
What Channels are available, and what do they cost?
With the first beta release of iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3, there are only four Channels available: Showtime, Starz, Smithsonian Plus, and Tastemade. During its “Show time” event on March 25, Apple promised channels from a lot of other partners. Here’s the list of all the Channels we know of, along with their monthly subscription price (if we know it).
- Acorn TV (unknown)
- Britbox (unknown)
- CBS All Access (unknown)
- Cinemax (unknown)
- CollegeHumor Dropout (unknown)
- Comedy Central Now (unknown)
- CuriosityStream (unknown)
- Epix (unknown)
- Eros Now (unknown)
- HBO (unknown)
- History Vault (unknown)
- Lifetime Movie Club (unknown)
- MTV Hits (unknown)
- Mubi (unknown)
- NickHits (unknown)
- Noggin (unknown)
- Pantaya (unknown)
- PBS Living (unknown)
- Showtime ($10.99)
- Shudder (unknown)
- Smithsonian Channel Plus ($4.99)
- Starz ($8.99)
- Sundance Now (unknown)
- Tastemade ($4.99)
- Up Faith & Family (unknown)
- Urban Movie Channel (unknown)
While the new TV app will expand to over 100 countries, the list of available Channels may vary from one to the next, as will pricing.
What if I already subscribe to one of these services?
If you subscribe to any of these services, you won’t be able to use your current subscription as a Channel in the TV app. Most of them still do integrate with the TV app, so you’ll see content in the Watch Now tab, and your shows and movies will appear in Up Next. But you’ll have to have the appropriate app installed, and will be kicked over to it to play content. You’ll also be billed through the content provider, not Apple, and may not be able to make use of Family Sharing.
To get playback directly within the TV app, Family Sharing, and billing from Apple, you’ll need to cancel your existing subscription and re-subscribe through the TV app’s Channels section.
What about Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu?
Netflix does not work together with Apple on the TV app at all. Its content does not appear in the TV app in any way—you just have to install the Netflix app and use that.
Hulu is not a Channel—you can’t subscribe and watch directly within the TV app—but the service does support the TV app’s features. So Hulu content will appear in the TV app’s tabs and search, and its shows will populate the Up Next section. You’ll have to have the Hulu app installed in order to play shows or movies, though, and you have to subscribe through the Hulu app or site.
Amazon Prime Video works just like Hulu does: It's not a Channel, if you install the app and have a subscription, all the content integrates within the TV app.
Can I buy bundles of services?
So far, Apple hasn’t mentioned any Channels bundles. It would make sense to offer such a thing as the library of Channels grows, but for the time being, they are all à la carte.