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Why many Apple TVs are better than one

Ted Landau | May 27, 2013
Ted Landau has discovered the joy of having multiple Apple TVs throughout his house.

If it survives legal and competitive challenges, the nascent Aereo service may eventually provide live Internet-based access to all over-the-air (OTA) stations. In the meantime, there's EyeTV, a device that lets me watch OTA channels live on my Mac. This means I can mirror the video over Apple TV to any of my televisions. And because EyeTV also functions as a DVR, I can record shows for later viewing.

If you subscribe to a television provider such as Comcast, many of these alternatives are unnecessary. Just use Comcast, which is less cumbersome than the aggregate of the alternatives. Nevertheless, these alternatives point to a future where you could "cut the cord," dump your television provider, go with Apple TVs for all your televisions, and still save a bundle of money. Like Lex Friedman, I'm not yet ready to go that far. For one thing, I still want easy access to basic cable stations, such as TNT, CNN, ESPN, and Comedy Central. But the day when I cut the cord is coming.

The main obstacles to cord-cutting are the networks and television providers themselves. Perhaps correctly, they see it as a threat to their business model--which is why you have to subscribe to HBO via a provider before you can use HBO Go. In the same way, ABC's new Watch ABC iOS app will let you watch most of the network's programming live on your iPad, as well as send it to an Apple TV--but only if you subscribe to a provider. This prerequisite seems to defeat most of the advantages of the live option. In fact, ABC plans to "withhold its most recent TV episodes from the free versions of Hulu and ABC.com, further limiting access to paying subscribers of cable and satellite providers only."

I believe that these blocking efforts will ultimately fail in the face of increasing consumer objections and an expanding number of work-arounds. It may take several more years, but we'll eventually have à la carte access to all channels via the Internet, without a provider requirement. The first harbinger of this may be CW's announcement of an Apple TV app that doesn't "require viewers to sign up for a subscription, or prove they have a cable or satellite service contract." If it succeeds, others are sure to follow.

As we shift in that direction, the advantages of having multiple Apple TVs will become more and more readily apparent. Even cable and satellite subscribers who never bothered with multiple cable boxes might consider an Apple TV for every television in their house, to provide access to a world of digital content no matter where the viewer happens to be.

 

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