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Apple TV Updated with New Channels, Netflix Profiles

After beefing up the Apple TV channel list just a few months ago (see “Apple TV Update Adds HBO GO, ESPN, and More,” 19 June 2013), Apple is at it again, adding more channels to the Apple TV, including the Smithsonian Channel, Vevo, Disney and Disney XD, and the Weather Channel. The new channels greatly expand educational and children’s programming options on the Apple TV. Also new is support for Netflix profiles, which will be especially welcome for families. You do not need to do anything to receive these updates — they are automatic.

Netflix Profiles — A new and often-requested feature, Netflix profiles enable multiple people to share a single Netflix account, with each user having his or her own history and recommendations. This is particularly a plus for families with young children, so you can separate “Breaking Bad” from “The Magic School Bus.”

To activate profiles, you must log in to the Netflix Web site, where you’ll be prompted to set up profiles for each person who watches Netflix from your account. To manage profiles in the future, visit the Netflix Web site, click the profile name in the upper-right corner, and click Manage Profiles.

Once profiles are active, every time you launch the Netflix app on your Apple TV, you’ll be asked to choose a profile. To switch profiles at other times, press the Menu button on the remote to step out of the app until you’re presented with the profile list.

Vevo — If you’re still mad that MTV doesn’t show music videos anymore, you’re going to love the new Vevo app. Vevo is a YouTube spin-off devoted to music videos.

Vevo isn’t a new service, and you’ve been able to watch videos from Vevo via your iPhone and AirPlay for a while, but the Apple TV app features genre channels, like Alternative, Country, Latino, and many others. Turn on one of the channels, and you can veg out to music videos, just like the days when MTV was good!

The Weather Channel — As you’d expect, the Weather Channel app offers local forecasts, as well as video stories, and even some original shows.

While the Weather Channel sounds like the most boring app in the Apple TV’s lineup, in some ways, I find it quite interesting. The official name of the app is Weather — not “The Weather Channel,” despite what the icon says. So, in essence, it has become Apple’s official weather app for the Apple TV.

The Weather Channel app doesn’t automatically detect your location — you have to look it up manually, which is a bit disappointing. More interesting is that the default location is Omaha, Nebraska. This suggests that it was developed by the Weather Channel instead of Apple, because if Apple had developed it, then surely Cupertino would be one of the default cities.

In addition to the expected weather forecasts, the Weather Channel also includes a number of free shows, including “Destination Uncharted,” “Brink,” and “From the Edge.” I can’t comment on the shows, but having more educational content on the Apple TV (or anywhere) is welcome. (Oh, how I miss the Learning Channel!)

Smithsonian Channel — A joint venture between Showtime and the Smithsonian Institution, the Smithsonian Channel is fairly new, having launched in 2007. I haven’t watched any of the content, but shows like “The Real Story” and “The Genius of Design” look interesting.

Even more interesting is that the Smithsonian Channel’s sister channels are Showtime, the Movie Channel, and Flix. Perhaps this is a test run for CBS (owner of these channels and currently in a bitter dispute with Time Warner Cable) to add more content to the Apple TV in the future?

Disney and Disney XD — Even though Apple and Disney have long been bosom buddies, the Disney Channel has just now arrived on the Apple TV. As with HBO GO and ESPN, you need a cable subscription to access these channels. However, despite not receiving the Disney Channel in my limited cable package, I was still able to activate the Disney Channel app.

The Disney Channel app features archives of popular shows, such as “Phineas and Ferb,” and you can even watch live content.

Disney XD, formerly Toon Disney, is a Disney Channel spin-off aimed at young boys. It’s a separate app that my cable subscription wasn’t sufficient to activate. That’s a bit annoying, as I have no need for two separate Disney apps on my Apple TV, especially if one of them is deadwood. Fortunately, there’s a fix (more on that in a moment).

ESPNEWS and ESPN Deportes — Finally, ESPN has added two more networks to its ESPN app: the 24/7 sports news channel ESPNEWS and its Spanish sister, ESPN Deportes. The ESPN app requires validation through a cable provider, but I was able to activate it through Comcast despite not subscribing to ESPN.

Too Many Channels, Nothing to Watch — The Apple TV’s home screen is starting to get crowded, and if you don’t use most of the apps, it can be irritating. Fortunately, you can move and even remove apps.

To move an app, select it with the remote, then hold down the middle button until the icons start to jiggle. You can then use the directional controls to move the app anywhere in the grid, just like on iOS.

Removing apps is slightly more complicated. Open the Settings app, then navigate to General > Parental Controls. From there, you can enable or disable each app. Thanks to David Chartier for the tip!

Next on Apple TV — It has already been a big summer for Apple TV, with the addition of HBO, Disney, ESPN, the Weather Channel, and more. Dan Frommer believes that this sudden boom in apps may indicate that Apple has developed a software development kit for third-party developers. As Frommer points out, the HBO GO app was developed by HBO, not Apple, and it seems that at least the Weather Channel was given similar treatment.

Could this mean that an Apple TV App Store is coming? Perhaps, but then again, pundits have been predicting that since the dawn of the second-generation Apple TV in 2010. I’m not holding my breath. But the recent flood of apps is interesting, and as a new parent increasingly stuck on the couch with a sleeping infant, I welcome all these additions to my favorite vegetation device.

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