Why Is the Apple TV Constantly Advertising at Us?

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2020/01/16/why-is-the-apple-tv-constantly-advertising-at-us/

The Apple TV app was advertised as a way to amalgamate all your streaming content into a single app, but it has turned into an advertising platform for Apple. “Take Control of Apple TV” author Josh Centers explains how to take a bit of control back.

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Thanks for the great tip about changing the Top Shelf setting from “What to Watch” to “Up Next”. However, a small correction to your directions: “Simply go to Settings > TV and select Top Shelf to switch it from What to Watch to Up Next.” On my AppleTV-4K edition, I found the relevant control under Settings > Apps > TV.

I’d never seen nor explored the available settings for the Apple TV app, so thanks for the pointer. Two other notification ‘features’ that I’ve disabled are:
Games in Up Next —> turn it OFF.
Exciting Games —> turn it OFF.

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Fixed, thanks!

Took it out of the top shelf. I only used it for the Next Up Que. might try and put it back with the settings you mentioned. Thanks for the tip.

Another major annoyance is the inconsistency of Apple TV apps. Some will honor the “automatic” setting for closed captions, others require it to be set every time the app is opened, and some don’t provide CC at all. A lot of apps use TVML instead of native tvOS and they make for a bad user experience. BritBox, for example, requires clicking a separate button to view a stream with captions. Given the level of attention devoted to UI on iOS devices, Apple really should set and enforce Human Interface Guidelines for Apple TV.

Equally annoying are all the News+ plus plugs in plain vanilla Apple News. I’m perfectly happy with plain old News, which I check in with at least once a day. At the moment I’m not interested in News+. Especially annoying is that in some of the ads it’s not very visible that a click will activate the News+ trial subscription.

I understand that subscription revenue is increasingly important to Apple’s bottom line, but this is not a good way to build brand loyalty loyalty.

Yes, very annoying and not at all Apple-like. What’s even more irritating is that oftentimes the Apple News+ content being pushed is woefully out of date. There are a lot of ways Apple could make News better. Maybe that’ll be the subject of a future editorial.

Though my kids are all adults or near adults now I too wish Apple offered a much more granular level of control on the content presented, if there was an exclude explicit or violent content from promos I’d check it.

Heck, if there was a “Hey Siri, never show me The Joker.” I’d use that.

But I’m not keen on being pushed anything to be honest, quite happy to have nothing up there beyond things I’ve watched and avenues to new. I am, in general, on top of what’s out there.

And as this site has opined before, a system wide no-auto play would be a good start.

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This is a great tip. Unfortunately, Apple TV does not remember this setting (nor the screensaver source) across system updates. I do subscribe to the beta program for my Apple TV, so I see this issue more than most people. After every system update, I need to reset the TV app Top Shelf to show ‘Up Next’ and the General->Screen Saver to a folder from my library from the ‘Aerial’ default.

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Since I’m not a journalist and, thus, don’t have to be quite as even-keeled in my comments as you, Josh ;), let me say this: IMHO, the Apple TV app’s user experience is garbage.

One of the key tenets of good design is to put the user in control. Obviously, a lot of companies don’t do this, and in some cases this is for good reasons such as security or safety. But in the vast majority of cases, it’s all about selling us more stuff. Sadly, Apple is now doing exactly that with the Apple TV app after taking the very same approach with Apple Music earlier. (That’s not the topic of your article, but just compare the experience of selecting a custom “radio station” between Apple Music and, say, Pandora. It’s not even close.)

When I first heard that there’d be the “One TV App to Rule All The Shows,” I was excited, because I find it tedious to maintain multiple wish lists in several apps, mostly focused on Hulu, Kanopy, iTunes TV, and iTunes Movies in our household.

Unfortunately, the Up Next queue is no alternative to a plain, simple, and user-friendly wish list such as the one in iTunes Movies: a single screen, showing just the items you’ve added. And when viewing a list item’s details, you can fully focus on that one item without being bombarded with a gazillion other things that you’ve never asked for.

What I was originally hoping for, then, was a wish list in the exact same simple style, that would just consolidate all “wishes” from across the streaming services installed on our AppleTV.

Instead, the Up Next feature is as awful to use as Netflix’s, where your self-curated list is buried among countless genre and suggestion rows. And the one reason is that you can’t focus on just the things you’ve also selected, but, instead, get sidetracked into oh-so many other shiny shows and movies, lest you run out of stuff to watch and abandon your streaming subscription.

As a result, we’ve decided to just keep juggling individual app’s wish lists. The gain in usability of the simpler lists dramatically outweighs the usability mess, if not the sheer display of contempt for the user, of the Apple TV app.

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Up Next queue for me.

Whilst it needs a lot of work (I’d like to be able to at least filter Movies or TV shows, and sort it by title, reverse date added, see recently added - all the things I can do for my Apple Music library in fact) it’s still a useful way of noting recommendations from friends and colleagues, via the phone app.

Then later i can be reminded and find them when sitting down to watch some tv. In this respect, it is annoying that Netflix opted out of working with it at all: only films and shows also available elsewhere will also show as being available on Netflix.