Apple TV Starter Guide

Thinking of getting an Apple TV? Good for you! It’s only $69 and you deserve it.

Thinking of getting an Apple TV? Good for you! It’s only $69 and you deserve it. My family and I have enjoyed using ours for years, and if the wife and kids had to choose, they’d probably ditch me before giving up the easy access to HBO, Netflix, and Disney Junior. (I don’t take it personally.) Setting up an Apple TV is dead easy, but I’ve whipped up this quick guide to make sure you get the most out of your little black box. Come meet the new star of your living room!


Say hello to your little friend.

APPLE TV IS a small (3.9"x3.9”), square box that uses an Internet connection to stream movies, music, and more to your TV. Content is accessed through a variety of channels that populate the Apple TV home screen like apps. As I said above, the device retails for $69, and can sometimes be found cheaper depending on the deals Apple has going. Refurbished units pop up at at a discount, and past specials have paired new units with $25 iTunes cards. There have been a few revisions to the hardware over the years, so if you buy used, be sure to get a third-generation unit (which first hit the market on March 7, 2012), otherwise it won’t be capable of displaying video at full 1080p HD.


Retail chains sometimes charge ridiculous prices for HDMI cables, so if you can’t find a fair deal, order online from sites such as Amazon or Monoprice.

TO MAKE APPLE TV WORK, you need to connect it to the Internet. A wired Ethernet connection is generally more stable, but Wi-Fi works just fine as long as the Apple TV is getting a strong signal from your wireless router (you can check signal strength on the Apple TV at Settings > General > About). To connect the unit to your TV, you need a standard HDMI cable (sold separately for about $3-$7, depending on the length). If you want to hook up surround sound, you can use an Optical audio cable.


The included Apple TV remote looks slick, but it’s made for the tiny hands of Keebler Elves.

APPLE TV COMES WITH a remote that’s super simple to use, but is kind of flimsy to hold — it’s too thin and tiny to get a good grip on. It’s not a major issue, but you might be better off using the free Remote app that lets you control Apple TV with your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. This is by far the best option for typing the names of movies or TV shows into, say, a Netflix search field, since it takes forever to seek out letters with the arrow keys of a regular remote. Apple TV also comes with a power cord, and that’s it — as I said before, you’ll need to buy an HDMI cable separately.


The Apple TV channel lineup grows and gets better every year. (Image taken from the official Apple TV page.)

APPLE TV CHANNELS contain a wide variety of content, everything from YouTube videos to live sports to HBO, and new ones are added every few months or so. The better ones usually require a paid subscription for access to anything more than a few sample shows, either with the content provider (such as Netflix and Hulu Plus) or a cable/dish company (such as Comcast or Direct TV). Here’s a full, up-to-date list of every available Apple TV channel in the US (lineups in other regions may vary): 

  • 120 Sports
  • A&E
  • ABC News
  • ACC Digital Network
  • AOL On
  • Apple Events
  • Beats Music
  • Bloomberg TV
  • CBS News
  • CNBC
  • CNNgo
  • Crackle
  • Crunchyroll
  • Dailymotion
  • Feeln
  • Flickr
  • Fusion
  • FYI
  • FX NOW
  • HBO GO (cable/dish subscription required)
  • HBO Now (standalone cable-free subscription required; available April 2015)
  • Hulu Plus (subscription required)
  • iMovie Theater
  • iTunes Movies and TV Shows
  • iTunes Music
  • iTunes Radio
  • Lifetime
  • MLB.TV Premium
  • MLS Live
  • NBA League Pass
  • Netflix (subscription required)
  • NFL Now (premium content requires a paid subscription)
  • NHL GameCenter
  • PBS
  • Podcasts
  • Qello TV
  • Red Bull TV
  • Settings
  • Showtime Anytime
  • Sky News
  • Smithsonian Channel
  • Tastemade
  • Ted Talks
  • Tennis Channel Everywhere
  • The Weather Channel
  • Trailers
  • UFC.TV
  • VEVO
  • Vimeo
  • Wall Street Journal Live
  • WATCH Disney Channel
  • WATCH Disney Junior (some free content; cable/dish subscription required for full access)
  • WATCH Disney XD
  • WatchESPN (cable/dish subscription required)
  • Willow TV
  • WWE Network (subscription required)
  • Yahoo Screen
  • Young Hollywood
  • Your Photos and Videos
  • YouTube


Some apps, such as MetalStorm: Wingman, go the extra mile with creative AirPlay features.