Why doesn't Apple stick a TV tuner in the box?

kalsta

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Some of us still watch live free-to-air TV after all. A lot of us actually. I mean, like oxygen it's just there, in the air, and it's free. I hate ads as much as anyone (probably more than anyone) but that's what the mute button is for, right? Also, we have some good ad-free TV here in Australia. (You probably do where you live too.)

So anyway, before you give me reasons why Apple can't do it… Let me tell you, I just bought a second-hand Roku powered Telstra TV box for my in-laws. I looked at the back of it to find the power socket, the HDMI port, the ethernet port, and the antenna socket. Wait… what…? The antenna socket??

Yep. It has a built-in tuner, and live TV is available from the main menu. From there, it has a nice simple user-interface for navigating your free-to-air stations. You can even pause and replay. Want to switch to Internet streaming? Forget fumbling around for the separate TV remote so you can switch to the right HDMI input. It's all there on the one device.

So I'm left wondering, if Telstra Australia (a company I do NOT associate with good products or services) can make this work in a compact box and with a very usable interface, why on earth can't Apple? Or perhaps they just don't want to. If Apple were able to match this one feature, I'd buy the next generation Apple TV in a heartbeat. But as it is, I'm off to buy a second Telstra TV for us.
 
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BaltimoreMediaBlog

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Well first off, the main reason is the same as why cellular companies won't activate FM radio in any of their phones. They want to sell you something instead of you getting it for free.

The second reason that Apple doesn't include a TV tuner in Apple TV is the fact that there are so many different proprietary over the air TV systems in the world. And add to this soon ATSC 3.0, which Apple will almost certainly fight to keep out of cell phones around the world soon.

1920px-Digital_terrestrial_television_standards.svg.png
 
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BODYBUILDERPAUL

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Simple. It's a last century way to broadcast and it's a dinosaur. It's all about streaming for the last 10 years. And it's wonderful.
Conventional broadcasting is dying very fast. Here in the UK, the BBC channels are watched by people over 61 according to research figures. I'm a perfect example, i've never watched conventional UK TV. In fact, when I see my Aunt watching it when I visit her, I'm horrified - right winged news (even from the BBC!!!!!), loads of negativity, mainstream crap and adverts advertising cancer causing chemicals or processed food or medicine. It's damn horrible.

In you must have conventional TV then please use conventional methods but please leave the beautiful Apple TV to do what it does perfectly - stream beautiful 21st century apps and platforms!
 

waw74

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May 27, 2008
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For a tuner, you need an antenna, and most aTVs are probably placed where that doesn't make much sense.

you can get a network tuner, and use something like channels to watch on your aTV. there is an optional subscription to get full DVR features, but you must have a computer to do that. Otherwise you can watch and pause live TV.
This lets you put the tuner closer to where the antenna will get a good signal. and run ethernet back to your home network.

i'm using 2 different tuners from silicondust, one with a cable card, currently they're both plugged into cable, but i've used one with an antenna before. (from a quick look, I think they have models that work in australia)

and with that you can watch conventional TV on your beautiful apple tv :)
 

lvavila

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Jun 9, 2013
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Some of us still watch live free-to-air TV after all. A lot of us actually. I mean, like oxygen it's just there, in the air, and it's free. I hate ads as much as anyone (probably more than anyone) but that's what the mute button is for, right? Also, we have some good ad-free TV here in Australia. (You probably do where you live too.)

So anyway, before you give me reasons why Apple can't do it… Let me tell you, I just bought a second-hand Roku powered Telstra TV box for my in-laws. I looked at the back of it to find the power socket, the HDMI port, the ethernet port, and the antenna socket. Wait… what…? The antenna socket??

Yep. It has a built-in tuner, and live TV is available from the main menu. From there, it has a nice simple user-interface for navigating your free-to-air stations. You can even pause and replay. Want to switch to Internet streaming? Forget fumbling around for the separate TV remote so you can switch to the right HDMI input. It's all there on the one device.

So I'm left wondering, if Telstra Australia (a company I do NOT associate with good products or services) can make this work in a compact box and with a very usable interface, why on earth can't Apple? Or perhaps they just don't want to. If Apple were able to match this one feature, I'd buy the next generation Apple TV in a heartbeat. But as it is, I'm off to buy a second Telstra TV for us.

You went from Won't to can't. To clarify, they can but won't. They make Apple products. They don't make TVs and they don't integrate with other brands. Seems clear.
 

kalsta

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Thanks for all the replies folks! Now to get stuck into the lot of you… :cool:

They want to sell you something instead of you getting it for free.
True that.

The second reason that Apple doesn't include a TV tuner in Apple TV is the fact that there are so many different proprietary over the air TV systems in the world.
Yes, well that adds to the logistical complexity. A bit. Nothing a company like Apple couldn't handle in their sleep of course. Down here they manage to stick an Australian 240V power cord (and transformer) in the box already, so it's not like they're shipping identical packages all over the world.

Conventional broadcasting is dying very fast. Here in the UK, the BBC channels are watched by people over 61 according to research figures.
Right. And speaking of dying very fast, those 61 year-olds don't have long to live anyway, so let's not bother catering to them!

I'm horrified - right winged news (even from the BBC!!!!!), loads of negativity, mainstream crap and adverts advertising cancer causing chemicals or processed food or medicine. It's damn horrible.
Right. I'm so glad the Internet doesn't have any of those things.

In you must have conventional TV then please use conventional methods but please leave the beautiful Apple TV to do what it does perfectly - stream beautiful 21st century apps and platforms!
Relax, your 'beautiful Apple TV' and 'beautiful 21st century apps' would continue to be just as beautiful as before. But, you know, maybe the cost of the box would go up by $5 (or knowing Apple, by $50). For that reason, I can see why you might be unhappy.

(Paul, for full disclosure, I should confess that I barely watch live broadcasts either. I do watch some of the same shows via each station's streaming 'catch-up' service. Other than that, it's mostly Netflix in our house. I set this box up for my wife's parents who are in their 80s. And I've already taught them how to navigate the apps so they can also enjoy streaming TV. I just know they're going to watch a lot of live TV though, and I think it's fantastic that they can do this without having to change inputs on the TV. It just removes a layer of complexity and potential confusion.)

For a tuner, you need an antenna, and most aTVs are probably placed where that doesn't make much sense.
I'm not suggesting you put your Apple TV on the roof. There are these things called cables, which run down from the roof (or wherever else you have your antenna), down through the wall, and out through a wall-socket. ;)

you can get a network tuner, and use something like channels to watch on your aTV.
Sure. I was aware there were various third-party options. I have an EyeTV stick kicking around somewhere. I just like the idea of the two worlds coming together more seamlessly. Apple is good at that kind of thing when it wants to be. They really should have done it several generations ago.

You went from Won't to can't. To clarify, they can but won't. They make Apple products. They don't make TVs and they don't integrate with other brands. Seems clear.
They don't make TV shows either. (Oh wait, what? I have I been away from MacRumors that long??) Seriously though, you really haven't provided any reasons why they couldn't or shouldn't—just that they don't.



Fine. You all win. Realistically, I know Apple is never going to do this—to take free-to-air and Internet streaming, and create a seamless entertainment experience that combines the two, with all the UI elegance that Apple is known for. Missed opportunity if you ask me. Then again you didn't. So, I guess all that is really left to say is…

Back to your regularly scheduled program. o_O
 

BaltimoreMediaBlog

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The notion that over the air TV is dying is not a valid excuse. In America, the cord cutter movement is flourishing and over the air TV is at 15% of households and growing after bottoming out. Plus the rollout of ATSC 3.0 or NEXT GEN TV is a game changer as it includes IPTV capability as well as with robust indoor reception and deep in building reception too that was never possible before in America without outdoor antennas or or much more complexity. And Next Gen TV allows for as many as 6-12 feeds per TV station and most American cities have at least 3-4 TV stations. Do the math and its no wonder that the cable TV industry is scared AF of ATSC 3.0 and trying to stop it, the FCC has already greenlighted it for a 2020 rollout for at least 40 markets in 2020. ATSC 3.0 tuner chips are small enough to fit in nearly every cell phone and Apple iPhone too, but I predict Apple will fight this tooth and nail just like the cable TV industry, but be on the losing side of the industry. I say this because Comcast/NBC is one of the few cable TV companies that have supported ATSC 3.0, which is huge for the rollout and that's not surprising as they own over the air TV stations and see the money potential added on to what they already get so they see it as a win win either way for them.

And I almost forgot to mention that Next Gen TV allows for 4K over the air TV as well as 4k PAY TV, something only being done via satellite in Japan as far as I know.

And finally, Steve Jobs notoriously hated over the air network television as well as FM radio and Tim Cook is not bold enough to flip on a dime and support a new technology. He's never going to be a visionary. He is always going to be known as the guy that kept Steve Jobs ideas going regardless of the changing environment. If alive, Steve Jobs would have challenged the cable industry like he tried to once before or told them off and piggybacked Apple's pay service nationwide over the air along with the streaming service right now. Steve Jobs was a visionary, not a bean counter keeping the ship afloat.
 

mpainesyd

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Nov 29, 2008
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I pointed out that the Apple TV was not actually a TV soon after it was first released.
I have been using EyeTV on a Mac for watching and recording live TV in Australia for many years. When AppleTV came out I was hoping there would be an EyeTV app for it, based on the EyeTV app for iPad. However Elgato abandoned EyeTV and the new owners failed to deliver..
i now use a HDHomerun tuner on my home network (it needs ethernet) and the Channels tvos app. It works well except that recent OS updates have resulted in lip-sync problems when audio is output to Homepods. Ihave to use an old hifi via HDMI.
EyeTV on the Mac remains a handy way to reciord shows and edit out ads but it was never updated to 64 bit so won't run under Catalina (Death Valley).
 
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kalsta

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So, the Mac wanted to install some security updates this morning. I said okay. While the updates started downloading, I thought I'd start typing up a reply here. I was well into my post when apps started shutting down around me. 'Noooooooo!!' I bellowed, Darth Vader style, while desperately trying to copy and paste my forum comment into a TextEdit document. I would have made it too, but for some reason the copy hadn't registered (it pasted my previous clipboard contents instead), and with that it was all gone… the system shut down with no other warning at all.

What the hell Apple? What ever happened to giving the user a warning before shutting down and starting the install?! At the very least a notification with a one minute countdown or something? I know I've seen those kind of warnings before.

Okay, rant over. Now where was I…

The notion that over the air TV is dying is not a valid excuse. In America, the cord cutter movement is flourishing and over the air TV is at 15% of households and growing after bottoming out.
Ah, so the obituaries are a bit premature huh? Interesting!

Plus the rollout of ATSC 3.0 or NEXT GEN TV is a game changer as it includes IPTV capability as well as with robust indoor reception and deep in building reception too that was never possible before in America without outdoor antennas or or much more complexity.
Hmm. At what frequencies? I know, there's supposedly little to no evidence that longer wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation are harmful to humans, but still… I can't shake the feeling that we're turning the planet into one big microwave oven. Wifi has been shown to harm plants, so… you know… I don't think I'm completely crazy to be cautiously skeptical.

If alive, Steve Jobs would have challenged the cable industry like he tried to once before or told them off and piggybacked Apple's pay service nationwide over the air along with the streaming service right now.
Yes, Steve Jobs was a visionary and Tim Cook will never be Steve Jobs. That said, I don't love the old 'what Steve would have done' hypothesising. I've read two biographies on the man, but I still wouldn't venture to say with much confidence what he would or wouldn't be doing if he were alive today.

EyeTV on the Mac remains a handy way to reciord shows and edit out ads but it was never updated to 64 bit so won't run under Catalina (Death Valley).
Bah, didn't realise EyeTV was another casualty. I bet you I find my old EyeTV stick right after upgrading to Catalina. 🙃
 

interstella

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Sep 29, 2013
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I pointed out that the Apple TV was not actually a TV soon after it was first released.
I have been using EyeTV on a Mac for watching and recording live TV in Australia for many years. When AppleTV came out I was hoping there would be an EyeTV app for it, based on the EyeTV app for iPad. However Elgato abandoned EyeTV and the new owners failed to deliver..
i now use a HDHomerun tuner on my home network (it needs ethernet) and the Channels tvos app. It works well except that recent OS updates have resulted in lip-sync problems when audio is output to Homepods. Ihave to use an old hifi via HDMI.
EyeTV on the Mac remains a handy way to reciord shows and edit out ads but it was never updated to 64 bit so won't run under Catalina (Death Valley).
There is a 64-bit update for EyeTV. It's still in beta and far from perfect but it does at least work. I've had TV tuners for my PC's (Hauppauge) and Mac for the best part of 20 years. I like to watch TV in a window in the corner of the screen while I'm doing other stuff!

http://file.geniatech.com/eyetv4/EyeTV4.0.0b12_8515.dmg
 
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BaltimoreMediaBlog

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Hmm. At what frequencies? I know, there's supposedly little to no evidence that longer wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation are harmful to humans, but still… I can't shake the feeling that we're turning the planet into one big microwave oven. Wifi has been shown to harm plants, so… you know… I don't think I'm completely crazy to be cautiously skeptical.

Yes, Steve Jobs was a visionary and Tim Cook will never be Steve Jobs. That said, I don't love the old 'what Steve would have done' hypothesising. I've read two biographies on the man, but I still wouldn't venture to say with much confidence what he would or wouldn't be doing if he were alive today.
Next Gen TV will be on the same TV channels you get today on SFNs (Single Frequency Networks). Each American city will have a lighthouse channel where they all share lower resolution TV network signals, but 4K Next Gen TV over IP will be transmitted on most of the other channels in the market, but with more sub-channel networks and the ability to tie into your current home WIFI network. Basically, it's a Cable TV Killer expanding free TV into cell phones and mobile TV in cars using no data on your cell phone plan. The cell phones are going to be made with or without Apple. They already are in South Korea and other places in the world. Only in America are we used to not being able to watch live TV on our phones unless we pay more in data streaming! The end is in sight, but certain legacy businesses are fighting it tooth and nail just like they did with 8-VSB. There was a vested industry back than to not make indoor TV reception work well. With OFDM and SFNs, you'll be able to get free TV on your phone nearly anywhere, even your basement or deep in office buildings.
 
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jasg49

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The second reason that Apple doesn't include a TV tuner in Apple TV is the fact that there are so many different proprietary over the air TV systems in the world. And add to this soon ATSC 3.0, which Apple will almost certainly fight to keep out of cell phones around the world soon.
Yep and at least in the states, since 2006 every television sold includes a tuner. I don't know about the rest of the world but it may be similar.

So, what is the value add for Apple to duplicate what the customer already has (and is probably used by very few)?
 

ActionableMango

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Almost always the TV that people are plugging the ATV into already has an antenna input, and thus can already be used to view over the air TV.

And before you say "but the TV doesn't have DVR functions", well keep in mind that the very limited storage space of the ATV also prevents that from being a DVR.
 

ApfelKuchen

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Why don't they [insert feature here]?

Why stop at over-the-air TV? Why not a cable tuner? Why not a Bluetooth player? Why not a row of HDMI connectors for adding multiple external sources? Why not audio amplifiers for running un-powered speakers, and audio output connectors for feeding self-amplified speakers...

The entire home video business is Balkanized. TVs come with some variety of AV Receiver-like features, and lack others. AV Receivers support whatever A/V formats they wish to pay licenses for, and lack support for others. Packing every feature into every product means, potentially, buying the same feature several times over. As someone noted, why include an over-the-air tuner in an Apple TV if the TV to which they're connected also includes an over-the-air tuner?

The goal of one box/one remote to control all A/V is still a long way off, if we are to ever have it at all. The only way to do that is to reduce the media sources we use.

Apple TV was developed with a single goal in mind - to interface the Apple ecosystem with a large screen: iTunes music, iTunes movie sales/rentals, AirPlay streaming of media content from iPhones and Macs. It wasn't designed to be a one-stop shop for video, it's intended to be an additional source (to be plugged into one of several HDMI connectors on the TV or A/V receiver). Apple has expanded the scope of what is available via an Apple TV, but they're still not in the business of making A/V receivers or large screen TVs, and are likely to never enter those businesses.

While they've sold a fair number of Apple TVs to consumers, they also sell them to schools and business with the primary goal of supporting AirPlay of presentations, classroom materials, etc. (as AirPlay2 support expands to all the major TV-makers, that education/corporate market will gradually dry up, though Apple probably collects some licensing money from the TV-makers).
 
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BaltimoreMediaBlog

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Yep and at least in the states, since 2006 every television sold includes a tuner. I don't know about the rest of the world but it may be similar.

So, what is the value add for Apple to duplicate what the customer already has (and is probably used by very few)?
Not quite true. A lot of TVs made today are made without any tuner and designed specifically to connect to a cable TV box or other box via HDMI cable without any coax. Coax is fast becoming a thing of the past for most video connections because every split degrades the signal.
 
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JBaby

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Yep and at least in the states, since 2006 every television sold includes a tuner. I don't know about the rest of the world but it may be similar.

So, what is the value add for Apple to duplicate what the customer already has (and is probably used by very few)?
That’s not really true. I have a Vizio smart tv that doesn’t. It’s one of the models that relied on Chromecast for the “smart” functionality. I got it maybe 5ish years ago.
 
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George Dawes

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I had several elgato eyetv toys over the years

They were flaky , unreliable, expensive and the recordings were very space inefficient as well as being virtually unplayable after my elgato account expired

Streaming is a far superior way to watch tv imo . The apple tv is excellent for this.
 
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oneMadRssn

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Simple. It's a last century way to broadcast and it's a dinosaur. It's all about streaming for the last 10 years. And it's wonderful.
Streaming is a far superior way to watch tv imo . The apple tv is excellent for this.
What if I told you that OTA signals are often higher quality than streaming? Even 4k streams are full of compression artifacts, crushed colors, and delay. OTA is uncompressed and immediate. I know that all over the world hardcore sports fans (NFL mostly in the US, and soccer/football elsewhere) prefer to watch OTA whenever possible because there is no delay and there is more detail due to no compression.

Don't get me wrong, streaming has its place and is a hugely important way to distribute content. There is a place for both. But even streaming has big downsides compared to OTA.

That said, I don't think there should be a tuner on an ATV for the technical reasons mentioned by @BaltimoreMediaBlog . The HDHomeRun + Channels App combo works beautifully on ATV with zero issues.
 

JBaby

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What if I told you that OTA signals are often higher quality than streaming? Even 4k streams are full of compression artifacts, crushed colors, and delay. OTA is uncompressed and immediate. I know that all over the world hardcore sports fans (NFL mostly in the US, and soccer/football elsewhere) prefer to watch OTA whenever possible because there is no delay and there is more detail due to no compression.
I know that they can be higher quality.

But if you don’t live in an area that can get OTA it doesn’t really matter. And you still have to deal with commercials. And the weather maps in the lower third when there’s bad weather sucks. I live in Kansas. There’s always bad weather. If there bad weather happening with streaming it’s no big deal. When your internet connection returns just pick up where you left off. And you never get weather map lower thirds. I personally hate live tv for all of these reasons. Streaming on demand FTW. I hate sports so I’m like the perfect demographic for streaming.
 
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oneMadRssn

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I know that they can be higher quality.

But if you don’t live in an area that can get OTA it doesn’t really matter. And you still have to deal with commercials. And the weather maps in the lower third when there’s bad weather sucks. I live in Kansas. There’s always bad weather. If there bad weather happening with streaming it’s no big deal. When your internet connection returns just pick up where you left off. And you never get weather map lower thirds. I personally hate live tv for all of these reasons. Streaming on demand FTW. I hate sports so I’m like the perfect demographic for streaming.
And if you don't live in an area that has good broadband internet, then streaming doesn't really matter. Data shows more people in the US live somewhere that doesn't have good broadband than people who live somewhere that doesn't get OTA.

Roughly 75% of the US population lives in or near a big city, and thus is likely within range of OTA tv. But approximately 50% of the US population has broadband internet according to microsoft's refutal of FCCs data. So if we are factoring in "access" into how good something is, OTA still comes out on top.

But you're right, being within range of an OTA signal is necessary to watching OTA. It might not be great for you, but don't dismiss it as irrelevant. OTA is still very important to the industry.
 

JBaby

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And if you don't live in an area that has good broadband internet, then streaming doesn't really matter. Data shows more people in the US live somewhere that doesn't have good broadband than people who live somewhere that doesn't get OTA.

Roughly 75% of the US population lives in or near a big city, and thus is likely within range of OTA tv. But approximately 50% of the US population has broadband internet according to microsoft's refutal of FCCs data. So if we are factoring in "access" into how good something is, OTA still comes out on top.

But you're right, being within range of an OTA signal is necessary to watching OTA. It might not be great for you, but don't dismiss it as irrelevant. OTA is still very important to the industry.
I live in the country. Until just 4-5yrs ago my internet speed was 1Mbps. I streamed everything. Today my internet speed is 10Mbps. Technically I don’t even have broadband. My connection is Fixed Wireless and it’s expensive at $74 a month, but I don’t have a data cap so that’s a plus. I’d switch, but it’s my only option.

Also, at no point did I ever say OTA was irrelevant.
 

cynics

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What is going on here? This is a function thats been available for years....

TV's have coax in with tuners/decoders for the same reason they have component in with decoders, HDMI in with decoders, etc etc. They are displays and need to be able to interrupt incoming signals and convert them to images.

Set top boxes usually have specific functions. In the case of internet streaming set top boxes such as the AppleTV then that specific function would be internet streamed content acquisition, decoding and outputting to a TV.

The initial question would be akin to me asking why my dedicated TV tuner connected to my antenna doesn't have Netflix and Hulu.

The obvious reason these functions are so rarely shared is because no reasonably priced device can be the best at both. A full function set top box has a similar price tag as a FULL FUNCTION tv tuner (w/ ip broadcast).

Anyway if you want to watch live broadcast on your AppleTV (or any streaming set top box) you need to get a tuner that broadcast its decoded signal via wifi and then use an app like Kodi, Plex, Channels Live (sole purpose of that app), etc etc to originate and display the content. Higher end tuners can support 4 TV and will transcode the incoming content to minimize bandwidth. If there was a tuner built into the AppleTV it would likely be crap and anyone serious about watching live broadcast wouldn't use it anyway.

HDHomerun Scribe Quattro tuner can decode live broadcast, act as a DVR, share to 4 tv's, etc but they are around 250 dollars I think. HDHomerun has less expensive tuners that might not have DVR or only support 2 tv's. I never used it because tis 25 bucks for the App but people rave about the Channels Live app.
 
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kalsta

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So, what is the value add for Apple to duplicate what the customer already has (and is probably used by very few)?
As I said, it's about seamlessly combining the two within a single, elegant user interface—something Apple usually excels at. This would be convenient for anyone who watches both streaming and live content, but it becomes even more important for users (like my 80 year-old in-laws) who find any complication (like switching inputs on the TV) confusing.

Almost always the TV that people are plugging the ATV into already has an antenna input, and thus can already be used to view over the air TV.
No kidding, but see my above comment. (I see others saying this isn't always the case now! I didn't realise they were making TVs without tuners.)

Why stop at over-the-air TV? Why not a cable tuner? Why not a Bluetooth player? Why not a row of HDMI connectors for adding multiple external sources? Why not audio amplifiers for running un-powered speakers, and audio output connectors for feeding self-amplified speakers...
Because I don't want those things ;) which makes your argument a straw-man my friend. I've already stated the benefit of combining a tuner, and I suspect it could be done for little additional cost.

It wasn't designed to be a one-stop shop for video
And yet they call it a 'TV'.

The obvious reason these functions are so rarely shared is because no reasonably priced device can be the best at both.
And yet here I am with my Roku powered Telstra TV box. :cool:
 

ActionableMango

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Sep 21, 2010
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No kidding, but see my above comment. (I see others saying this isn't always the case now! I didn't realise they were making TVs without tuners.)
Yes, I understand your specific use case. In fact my solution is also integrated as well (AppleTV using channels app).

I was just trying to answer the title question.