SharePlay on Apple TV – chaos and hilarity ensue, and total failure (warning: long(ish?) post)

Hello everyone. Hope you are well. Buckle up… this might get a bit rocky.

The goal (a/k/a “The Purpose”):

  • Share time together with Mom, remotely (in this case, across an ocean!) watching a movie together on Apple TV+ — Mom on her iPad mini, I on my Apple TV connected to our internet-connect “smart” TV

The set up:

  • On my mother’s side: her iPad mini, latest iOS, TV app freshly installed
  • On my side: my iPhone XS, Apple TV (4th Generation, now called Apple TV HD), TV apps installed on both, newest OSes and app updates on each
  • My phone is on the same Wifi as the Apple TV and our TV, and my VPN is off; Bluetooth is turned on for both devices
  • TV itself is connected both to our wifi and by Ethernet cable directly to the modem
  • Apple TV is logged into the same iCloud account for Apple media on my iPhone and Apple TV
  • Subscription to Apple One (which includes Apple TV+), Family Sharing works well with Mom (been sharing Apple Music and app purchases for years)
  • JBL Endurance Bluetooth earphones ready to connect to the TV (or the iPhone or the Apple TV), as usual when Mrs. W is working in the kitchen

The result:

  • Utter chaos and total failure.
  • Lots of laughter. Everyone happy.

What worked:

  • Starting SharePlay
    • first a FaceTime video call from my phone to her iPad mini
    • then over to the TV app on my phone
    • then starting the show — SharePlay begins on my phone and her iPad mini — our SharePlay debut is off to a good start

What didn’t:

  • Couldn’t get SharePlay going on the Apple TV


  • At one point I was watching on my iPhone, sound in my Bluetooth earphones, and my mother was watching on her iPad. We gave it a go for a minute, but the sound was a bit wonky — I could hear the show in stereo but Mom only in one ear, and she couldn’t hear me when I spoke.
  • I took off the earphones and put them in their case, which disconnects them from whatever and turns them off.
  • Everything on SharePlay stopped and disappeared. Only the FaceTime video call survived.

What was missing:

  • The SharePlay button in Apple TV’s pop-out control panel on the right side of the screen

Other solutions attempted with zero success:

  • AirPlay the show to the Apple TV — nothing happens
  • AirPlay the show to the TV itself — nothing happens
  • Screensharing my iPhone screen via AirPlay to the Apple TV — this works, but when the show starts, I get audio but no visual (just a dark screen)
  • Screensharing my iPhone screen via AirPlay to the TV — this works, but when the show starts, I get audio but no visual (just a dark screen). One time I got a still of the logo of the film while the sound played. Huh.
  • Logging into my account (again) in Apple TV — now it shows up twice. Huh.

What happens:

  • Laughter starts. First I am calm, then a bit less calm… I start asking my Mom — “Wait, please don’t touch anything, just tell me what you see” over and over. She plays along gamely (and plays Words With Friends in the Split Screen… I think).
  • Giggles continue. Nothing is working. She is watching on her iPad, I can’t see it anywhere, I get spinning loading wheel, she watches.
  • Passing through to refill her coffee cup, Mrs. W chimes in perfectly on cue, sardonically: “This is stressful. It completely defeats the purpose.” (See “Purpose” above.)
  • Mom and I burst out laughing, laugh until tears are flowing, give up on “The Tragedy of Macbeth” on the Apple TV and end up watching (by SharePlay on my iPhone, no earphones) the first episode of “The Snoopy Show” with total joy and happiness. We love Snoopy. It’s a good show. It kept the spirit of the original. Well done.
  • Endorphins are created, relationships are strengthened all around. Mrs. W wins the “Quip of the Day” award — maybe even “Quip of the Week”, but it’s only Wednesday.

Next steps:

  • Figure out how to SharePlay to the Apple TV with my Bluetooth headphones connected to my iPhone or the Apple TV. I may log out of both accounts on the Apple TV and log in again to see if that helps.
  • Alternatively, connect the Bluetooth headphones to the TV (that always works) — but then which microphone will pick up my voice? My phone’s? The headphones? None? Maybe none is better — my color commentary can be exhausting (as you now know if you’ve actually read this far, for which I humbly thank you).

SharePlay is a lovely and useful idea, but the Apple TV component doesn’t seem quite ready for prime time.

Any suggestions?

Hope you laughed, too.


I did laugh. :sweat_smile: What a shiteshow, Apple.

With my son on the left coast USA and me on the right, we just simultaneously press “play” on whatever content. But when we watch, we watch, no jabbering, only kibitzing is via Message.

I get Mom may not be able to stream the same content or may pay twice, etc… but simultaneous “push play” is a possibility that removes a lot of the “likely to break” aspects.

Oh, and AirPods Pro can be your friend. Not without their own stresses but pretty much just work.

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Thank you very much, David.

Yes, we might be going for the “push play at the same time” solution now that Mom’s received the painful education on the differences between my Apple TV box, the (Apple) TV app and the Apple TV+ premium service, and helped her load the Apple TV app onto her Samsung TV. Thanks to family sharing we won’t have to pay twice!

AirPods Pro… when’s my birthday again? :slight_smile:

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