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Apple TV gets HBO Go and sports with WatchESPN

Some good news for premium cable and sports fans today: Apple(s AAPL) on Wednesday said it has signed deals to bring HBO Go and WatchESPN to its Apple TV set-top box.

HBO Go is only available to HBO(s TWX) subscribers, so this isn’t a solution for cord-cutters. However, it’s good for those who want to access to the cable channel’s backlog of content: customers can watch any of HBO’s shows at any time via the HBO Go channel on Apple TV. HBO Go has already been available for Apple’s mobile devices and on competing platforms Roku and Xbox 360(s MSFT).

WatchESPN(s DIS) is also a subscriber-only channel. Those who are signed up via their local cable provider can watch programming on Apple TV from across the company’s channels: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, curated clips from and others.

There are some limitations, however: DirecTV and Charter subscribers won’t be able to watch HBO Go on Apple TV, and DirecTV and Dish subscribers similarly will not be able to access WatchESPN on the device, AllThingsD reports.

Three other channels are also coming. The U.K.’s SkyNews will be viewable on demand or live in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland. Programming from Japan’s Crunchyroll, an anime and news channel, will be available worldwide one hour after airing. Music channel Qello has free and paid subscriptions available.

None of this makes Apple TV a viable cable replacement for fans of premium content and live sports, because Apple TV still requires that pesky cable subscription. However, Apple is slowly but surely broadening its living room play to compete with Xbox, Roku and others. Apple’s longterm TV strategy is still very much TBD, but this is a good move toward getting Apple customers used to the idea of watching their favorite content via the Apple TV and not live via a cable TV subscription.

With the announcement of new content, Apple also gave the latest stats on iTunes downloads: 1 billion TV episodes and 380 million movies have been purchased in total. Meanwhile, 800,000 TV episodes and over 350,000 movies are bought each day.

This post was updated with more information at 7:30 a.m. PT and again at 8:45 a.m. with details about cable subscriber limitations.

11 Responses to “Apple TV gets HBO Go and sports with WatchESPN”

  1. cameraz

    This story is wrong, I am a DirecTv subscriber and I DO get HBOGo via my Apple TV. I just updated the firmware of my Apple TV tonight and there it was!

    I am so psyched because I also have a Roku box with HBOGo, however, it is not available to DirecTv subscribers. I wrote DirecTv about that many times and asked them to please include it for subscribers, and they basically replied that it ain’t gonna happen.

    In addition, there seems to be so much more free content on Apple TV now. Before you had to pay for every damn thing. Thanks, Apple!

  2. Murphy Belle

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  3. I’m a DirecTV subscriber and the omission of our service is ridiculous.

    I can watch HBO Go on my iPad or Samsung Smart TV, I can even use AirPlay to watch HBO Go from my iPad -> Apple TV.

    Just not directly on the Apple TV. wtf guys

  4. Kristofer Barins

    As a DirecTV subscriber it sucks to be omitted from both the HBO GO and ESPN options. I’d like to understand the reasoning behind it. Is it a policy of DirecTV to not allow its customers access? Or, are HBO and ESPN not sharing with DirecTV? Either way, its a bad customer experience…pox on all three!

    Great piece, super informative and insightful. Thanks!!

  5. Regarding what AllThingsD reported about DirectTV subscribers not getting access to HBO Go on Apple TV, that’s strange in that as a DirectTV subscriber, I can run the HBO Go app successfully on an iPad or iPhone.

  6. Travis Henning

    Well, its a start. But seeing as how I don’t subscribe to HBO, or even cable, I’d like the option to subscribe to these channels without a cable TV package. But that is unlikely to happen any time soon, especially for ESPN.

    I do wonder what the point of having the ESPN family of channels on the Apple TV if you already subscribe to them via cable TV. Why not just flip over to ESPN on your cable box? Unless you’ll be able to time shift entire sporting events. Will it only be live streaming and clips?

    • Same question I had. After thinking on it, I can see how it would allow a multi-TV household to pay for only a single cable box and use AppleTV in other room(s) to get the HBO and ESPN content.

      That’s all I got…