Overshadowed by Apple’s original content service, Apple TV Channels was one of the less prominent services unveiled during the company’s big media event in March, but unlike Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade, which aren’t really expected to debut until this fall (with one exception), Apple TV Channels appeared in the iOS and tvOS betas only two days after the event, and is expected to launch this month.
In fact, the marquee feature of the upcoming iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 releases is in fact Apple’s redesigned TV app, which will not only bring support for Apple’s a-la-carte subscription service, but undoubtedly paves the way for Apple TV+ itself to land on users’ screens later this year.
Although Apple began incorporating several third-party subscription services into the betas right away, the initial selection was somewhat limited — Showtime, Starz, Smithsonian, and Tastemade were the only options out of the gate, although of course Apple promised a considerably longer list that would also include, among others, CBS All Access, Nickelodeon, The History Channel Vault, Comedy Central Now, and — perhaps most significantly — HBO.
As the actual public release of the new TV app draws near, Apple released a fourth beta this week that expands the “channel lineup” to a more complete list, bringing HBO on board, along with Cinemax, EPIX, Sundance Now, Lifetime Movie Club, and UMC.
What’s perhaps more interesting, however, is that it looks like those who subscribe to HBO through Apple TV Channels will actually get an extra perk over subscribing directly through HBO’s own apps.
As 9to5Mac has discovered, HBO subscribers through Apple’s TV app will be able to download HBO content to their iPhone or iPad for offline viewing. Although HBO has had its own HBO Now app for quite a while now, offline viewing is not a feature that’s previously been available to digital subscribers, which makes Apple’s new Channels service all the more compelling for those who prefer to get their Game of Thrones fix on the go.
However, it seems that Apple won’t be providing a direct way for existing HBO Now subscribers to make the move to Apple TV Channels. 9to5Mac also notes that although HBO in Apple TV Channels will be more or less the same service as the standalone HBO Now — $15/month for access to HBO’s completely lineup of content — there’s no way (in the beta at least) for existing subscribers to “link” their account with Apple TV Channels. Hence, those who want to make the switch are going to have to cancel their standalone HBO subscription and then subscribe directly through the TV app. However, it’s worth noting that Apple is offering a one-week free trial of HBO through the TV app, so users making the switch should be able to take advantage of that free week as that will technically make them “new” subscribers.
One other advantage to subscribing via Apple TV Channels is that the TV app will also be coming to the third-generation Apple TV set-top box. While HBO Now is also supported on the older Apple TV models, as with all of the “apps” before the days of tvOS, it’s built into the Apple TV software and therefore hasn’t seen an update in years — and it doesn’t seem likely that it will be getting one this time around either, since the only reason the seven-year-old Apple TV is getting any new updates at all is to bring Apple’s own TV app to the device.
Users who already have access to either the developer or public betas of iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 can apparently take advantage of the new HBO channel now, while Apple is still on track to bring it to everybody later this month. In fact, we suspect that the updated TV app may be key to watching Apple’s first TV+ original content project, Peanuts in Space, which is expected to air around the time of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 10 mission on May 22.