The New Apple TV – First Impressions

Since I make my living in the online video business, I try to stay on top of what’s happening in the OTT space. (OTT is industry lingo for “Over the Top” content. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the awesome Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling movie.) So I’ve tried out or owned just about every type of box or dongle you can possibly connect to a television to access video.

Despite being Apple-centric in most areas of my life, my Apple TV has been collecting dust in a drawer for over a year now. I’ve been a loyal Roku user for several years now. Roku’s are cheap, easy to use and they have had channels for years. I love Roku and it’s always been my top recommendation when people ask me about this stuff.

Now, I’ll be recommending the new Apple TV.

Since I had already pretty much written off Apple TV, I didn’t pay attention to any of the new features when it was announced. It wasn’t even a blip on my radar. But then I started to get lots of emails from companies asking if we wanted them to build an Apple TV channel for us.

I ignored all of the emails until our pals at VHX reached out, excited about the potential of creating a channel for Yoga With Adriene. They were willing to do all the work if we willing to be their first guinea pig. We went for it and they not only did an awesome job, they turned the channel around fast and we were in the first batch of channels to launch on the platform.

Since all this was happening I decided I needed to get a new Apple TV so I could see how everything was working.

. . .

AppleTV First Impressions


There are already a ton of detailed tech-site reviews that go into lots of detail about the device itself.

  • It’s a little bigger (and taller) than the previous version. It’s a black box, nothing flashy.
  • The remote control has been completely re-designed and now has a click-able touch interface. It feels good?—?like a really tiny iPhone. The only real design flaw is that the buttons are positioned perfectly in the center so if you’re not looking it’s easy to miss which part of the device is actually the front.
  • The interface is now very iOS-like. There’s nothing new to learn. The black background is gone and everything is white and shiny. There’s also a 3-D effect so if you hover over something it wiggles. I also really like the navigation sound effects.
  • Channels (or apps). This is the most exciting new feature for me. Now you don’t have to be a big-time Apple media partner to create a channel and make it available via Apple TV. This is a very big deal.
  • You can talk to it. There’s a microphone button that activates Siri so you can do voice searches. Unfortunately, the Siri integration is pretty limited and doesn’t seem to work fully with any of the apps yet.
  • Games! You can now play App store games on your TV. I’m not a big gamer but this is actually pretty cool.

There are a few areas with definite room for improvement, but those could easily be taken care of with incremental software updates.

The only significant thing that’s missing for me is an Amazon app and it doesn’t seem like there will be one coming soon.

My Roku has probably been phased out for good.

. . .

What the Apple TV could mean for Video Creators

I think the new Apple TV is going to be a big success. It feels like an integrated piece of the bigger Apple ecosystem. It also feels like Apple is really going to promote it.

So if it does become a big deal, what does that mean for video creators?

  1. It’s now easier than ever to find, buy and rent movies (and other video content through iTunes). Apple is already the market leader in this area and this is going to make them even bigger. I just got started last night and have already made a couple of impulse purchases that were served up as search results.
  2. You can now have your own channel?—?and monetize it if you want to. We’re using a subscription model but it’s also possible to offer In-App purchases. Our channel is only scratching the surface of what is possible and now that we’ve actually seen how this thing works we’ll be making lots of changes and improvements. There is some amazing potential here.
  3. Depending on your subject matter, this could be a better way to reach your audience than YouTube. Are your videos a perfect fit for a computer screen or phone?—?or would they work much better on a TV screen? Up until now, we’ve been optimizing most of our content specifically for the types of things that would work well in the YouTube ecosystem?—?short, search optimized “lean forward” videos. Now we are branching out into long-form “lean back” programming.

For the past few years we’ve been inching closer and closer to TV over the internet and while it’s not perfect?—?this really does feel like the best solution available right now.

So those are my initial thoughts after less than 24 hours with the new Apple TV. I really like it and I can’t wait to to see how indie filmmakers and video creators are going to take advantage of the platform.

3 Replies to “The New Apple TV – First Impressions”

  1. This is a really great review, Chris! It is thorough but succinct. You covered and explained its uses and potential for an audience that is already getting their TV viewing via the internet. No need to skim over why we should skip the cable company; most of us reading this have probably already done this. 🙂 I wasn’t sure if it was worth it for us to upgrade our Apple TV and buy this new one. Thanks to your review you made that decision a lot easier. Looking forward to seeing YWA on my Apple TV in the near future! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Sarah! I’m actually liking it more and more. The only downside is that now that I’m getting used to Siri for voice control, I want it to do even more. I didn’t expect to even really use this feature, but now I want to use it for everything.

      1. Yes, voice control is huge! My kids use it ALL the time in the YouTube Kids app! I love that the Apple TV added this. Hopefully, now that it is built like iOS, it will have updates like our MACs and iPhones have. And hopefully one of those updates will expand the function of Siri on the Apple TV.

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