Blog Post

AirPlay Is Coming to Apps, Except the Ones You Use

iPad and iPhone users will soon be able to stream video from their apps straight to their Apple (s AAPL) TV, thanks to an update to the AirPlay feature that’s going to be rolled out with iOS 4.3. The new feature was announced Wednesday by Apple VP of iOS Scott Forstall, but what Forstall didn’t mention is that many major media companies aren’t likely to support the feature anytime soon.

In fact, if you’re looking to get additional TV content on your television via AirPlay, you’ll be disappointed. Hulu’s iPad app won’t support Airplay for the time being, and Comcast (s CMCSA) and HBO (s TWX) also are on the fence. Netflix, (s NFLX) which is usually keen on supporting as many platforms as possible, isn’t interested in AirPlay — and don’t hold your breath for AirPlay becoming part of the ABC (s dis) app.

There are a number of reasons for big media to stay away from AirPlay. For Netflix, it’s simply common sense. “Netflix is already available on Apple TV so we aren’t planning to support AirPlay,” Steve Swasey, the company’s VP of communications, wrote via email. The company simply isn’t interested in reinventing the wheel to get the service on a device that already carries it.

In the case of TV networks like HBO and cable providers like Comcast, though, it’s a little more complicated. Spokespeople for both companies said it’s too early after the announcement to say whether they’ll eventually support AirPlay, but an HBO spokesperson said there are internal discussions happening around the subject.

The reason for those discussions is that virtually all broadcast and cable networks have broad policies in place to make sure their web content doesn’t show up on TV screens. That’s the reason the networks have been blocking Google TV (s goog) products from accessing their content, and it’s the reason Hulu needs separate licensing agreements with rights holders to display their videos through Roku boxes and similar connected devices.

Of course, that doesn’t mean none of these media companies will ever support AirPlay or similar features. Hulu, for example, only offers iPad users access to its Hulu Plus catalog, for which it already has the rights for various devices. Comcast is also looking to get its TV Everywhere content directly on connected devices, and the company demoed its first app for Samsung TVs at CES.

However, Comcast might still face resistance from rights holders for embracing technologies like AirPlay, and overcoming these roadblocks could take time. And during that time, Apple may enable content providers to create native apps for Apple TV, once again taking away the need to support AirPlay.

The only major media brand we talked to that actively plans to support AirPlay right away is the online music video distributor Vevo. “Vevo’s iPad app was just updated to support AirPlay & iOS 4.3,” Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff wrote via email. The new iPad app is already available in the app store, and an iPhone version has been submitted to Apple and will be live shortly. The reason Vevo can move quickly while others hesitate is all of the content on its site is licensed for all digital platforms. “We knew at the very beginning that everything would be connected to the Internet,” Caraeff told me a few weeks back.

Of course, big media’s concerns about AirPlay are largely being rendered irrelevant by the fact that the iPad now also supports HDMI out via an adapter that’s sold separately. iPad owners using the adapter can watch any video they want on their TV — but for media companies, it may take some time to get comfortable with this kind of blurring of device boundaries.

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14 Responses to “AirPlay Is Coming to Apps, Except the Ones You Use”

  1. I see this as an opportunity for Racing games, using the i device as a steering wheel accelerator brakes. and just have it on the screen. plus split screen for racing games. board games would be great too. like how scrabble you can use iphones as tile racks. that’d be cool

  2. Newkiebrown

    Who cares about the HDMI connector! The point of Airplay is for tether-less / wire-less connectivity and do without HDMI. Netflix is already built in and works fine… Frankly, its a better interface than the iPad app. I agree that this is not necessary for airplay support. This article will only scare aware those who are unfamiliar with Airplay and will think its not a good solution. Well, its by far the best solution for playing media at home :)

  3. Uh, no.. the apps I use *ARE* supporting AirPlay.

    Netflix is already on my Apple TV so I don’t need AirPlay. Same with YouTube. I do not care at all about Hulu. But StreamToMe and AirVideo, which I use frequently, will be supporting the new AirPlay features in iOS 4.3. That’s exactly what I wanted.

    And as others have mentioned… video out. this is a non-issue.

  4. Hamranhansenhansen

    AirPlay is not just about Apple TV, though. Apple has licensed it to other consumer electronics companies. Even when watching Netflix on your iPad, you may want the audio to go through some AirPlay speakers nearby. It’s only a matter of time before the feature is universal.

    And with the iOS HDMI adapter that mirrors the screen, lack of support for AirPlay is not going to keep content from iOS devices off the TV screen anyway.

    And even if all that failed, Apple could either build AirPlay into the video playback API’s so it is not optional, or at some point refuse to approve video apps that don’t support AirPlay because they are customer-hostile. The consumer is at the top of the hierarchy on the Apple platforms because we pay all the bills.

  5. RattyUK

    “Netflix, which is usually keen on supporting as many platforms as possible, isn’t interested in AirPlay.”
    Can anyone offer any possible argument as to why you’d want Netflix to support Airplay? Really? The AppleTV runs a native Netflix App. This is redundancy to the point of madness.

    • It would be easier to find the content that I want to watch on an iPad or iPhone than it would directly on the tv. Additionally, one could be looking for something to watch while other content is playing. Also, I may have a Netflix account but I’m at the home of someone who doesn’t. Lastly, if we control the content from our own individual devices, we know the individual that ordered up the content rather than just the household – might be good for recommending other content.

    • I’ll give you one. Travel. I don’t carry an AppleTV with me when we go on family vacations. I’d much rather carry my iPad than my laptop and the ability to connect it to the hotel TV is key. So now, because Netflix doesn’t imagine that being of any value, I’ll have to lug my laptop around to connect that to the TV.

      Why does Netflix even offer a PC client if the AppleTV does the same thing then? Hmmm?

      • Newkiebrown

        Use the HDMI connector for iPad and leave your laptop at home. “Why does Netflix even offer a PC client if the AppleTV does the same thing then? Hmmm?” …What’s your point?

  6. monal valia

    good to hear about the VEVO app supporting AirPlay in 4.3….previously I’ve had to use 3rd party jailbreak tools like airvideoenabler to send music videos to the tv but this is going to be alot better experience..I hope!