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 ESPN.com 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.