Blog Post

YouTube Comes to My Apple TV

This morning, Apple released a software update for Apple TV owners which added the ability to access YouTube videos, in addition to content already present in iTunes. Not one to wait around, I installed it immediately, and it works well, but I can already see limitations to the service that surprised me.

Upgrading the Software

Accessing the software update was simple. Navigating to the Apple TV’s Settings menu with the Apple Remote, I clicked Software Update and was notified an update was available. I opted to install, and it immediately began downloading, with the familiar “download in progress” spinning indicator being displayed. When complete, I was asked to reboot the Apple TV.

During the reboot process, my TV screen temporarily lost input, and was then replaced with an Apple logo and progress bar. When the progress bar was completed, the Apple TV rebooted again, and I was treated to Apple TV’s startup video, oddly reminiscent of TiVo’s famous boot-up sequence. And when that was complete, I was back at my home menu with a new option: YouTube.

Adding YouTube to the Menu

YouTube becomes just another menu item for Apple TV, in parallel with Movies, TV Shows, Music, Podcasts and Photos. Selecting the YouTube option presented me with a variety of still images, as album covers are shown in Music or TV Shows. And underneath the YouTube header, I had a few options, including Featured, Most Viewed, Most Recent, Top Rated, History and Search. Featured, Most Viewed, Most Recent and Top Rated mirror their same options you would find at

Personal Viewing History and Search

The History folder tracks those videos you watch, and displays them in a descending column, with most recently viewed on top, as we’ve grown accustomed in Safari. Apple offers the ability to “Clear History”, but not to individually select clips to delete from that history, so if you’re watching items you don’t want someone else with access to the Apple TV to see, then you have to wipe the whole thing.

When it came to the Search function, I at first thought I might be yearning for a wireless keyboard, a la the ill-fated WebTV, but Apple, mirroring TiVo, makes it easy, with a navigable alphabet, selectable by remote. As I typed one letter at a time, the search results, on the right, would change immediately, without waiting for me to hit an enter or return button.

Quality and Questions

While it worked very well, finding videos of “beagles” or “fennec fox”, for example, I was surprised to find that instead of seeing the full array of results there, I only would be presented with one option, which match the first result from the YouTube site. It seems that the full library of YouTube is not yet fully available or searchable on day one, or the functionality is being limited to conserve bandwidth?

Watching a YouTube video was surprisingly clear on the 42-inch screen. While I expected more blurriness or grainy video, the quality was the same on the TV as it is on my laptop, thanks to a near-equivalent pixel count. Of course, given YouTube’s amateur video archives, the quality of the content and shaky camera work is not improved, no matter how big the screen is.


For a first pass at integrating the services, the YouTube/Apple TV relationship is off to a strong start. I believe with time we will see fuller search results, and maybe even an Apple channel on YouTube? Doesn’t it make sense to have all of Steve’s keynotes on YouTube as well as through QuickTime? Just a thought. While we’re still waiting for rented movies to make their way to my Apple TV via iTunes, YouTube is a great addition. Anybody who has an Apple TV today should make the time to update.

7 Responses to “YouTube Comes to My Apple TV”

  1. Lancelot

    Can anyone tell me how long it took for the update to complete its download – I’ve been waiting for 3/4 of an hour & it’s still not done.. Can this update be that large.?

  2. bd, you can search and find videos. It’s not perfect, as mentioned above, but you can find videos by keyword searches. I’m not too interested in Most Popular either. Those seemed prone to manipulation, especially those offering Millions of MP3s at their Web site!

  3. One of the biggest drawbacks that I see on the AppleTV is the ability to search YouTube through the interface. I consume most videos by searching for what I’m interested in. Perhaps this could be solved by created search-channels that are setup and then provides an RSS-like feed based on keywords. I’m not interested in simply viewing ‘most-popular’ videos.

  4. I believe that for a YouTube video to be available to Apple TV and iPhone, YouTube needs to transcode it to H.264. I think they are already transcoding new videos as they’re uploaded, and they’re in the process of transcoding their entire existing library. I’m not sure how their API exposes the different versions of the videos; it’s possible that the H.264 version is private or restricted somehow to Apple devices.

    I’m not 100% sure, but I think I saw this in Walt Mossberg’s interview with Steve Jobs at D.