If you’ve been following the HBO drama lately—and I’m not talking about Westworld—you might have heard that owners of older model Apple TVs will lose the ability to stream HBO shows, and soon. While obsolescence is a fact of life in tech, this feels like a stupid move, because why can’t a reasonably powerful piece of hardware handle newer encoding methods? but that’s the way it is. If you have a second- or third-generation Apple TV—models that launched in 2010 and 2012, respectively—you’re going to lose the HBO app soon.
That “soon” bit is important, as the HBO Go and HBO Now apps were first scheduled to depart on April 30. HBO has since extended provided a stay of execution through May 15—a slightly generous move, but one that doesn’t postpone the inevitable very long. Come that fateful Friday, your ability to stream your favorite shows (the easy way) will go away.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re SOL. There are a few methods you can employ to keep yourself up to your eyeballs in episodes of High Maintenance for a while at least.
Is it time for an upgrade?
There’s a workaround, but it is going to cost you the convenience of using a dedicated Apple TV app. If that’s a dealbreaker, I recommend biting the bullet and upgrading your Apple TV. Yes, I know: buying new hardware for the purpose of supporting software feels like you’re contributing to a rigged system. But that’s kind of the way life works, isn’t it?
Want the newest ray-tracing video games to look gorgeous? Either pay for a streaming service, which costs you monthly cash and potentially forces you to rebuy the game on a new platform, or spend a small fortune to upgrade your system. Want some crazy augmented reality tech that lets you put animal faces on your body? Upgrade your phone. Et cetera.
I don’t love forced upgrades, but you can score a newer Apple TV at slight savings right now. Typically they will run you $149 for the regular version or $179 for one that can handle 4K streaming. Apple’s educational pricing discount doesn’t apply to the Apple TV, unfortunately, nor will you find any models on the refurb store right now. However, if you’re eagle-eyed, you can sometimes save around $10 or so by purchasing the Apple TV from a different retailer. Sign up for a Slickdeals price alert and remain patient.
You could also just eBay or Craigslist an Apple TV—even a fourth-generation one—for around $100-$120. That said, I don’t think the savings is worth it. A newer Apple TV isn’t that much more expensive, even if you go for the 4K version. And that’s the one I’d recommend if you’re going the upgrade route: Even if it’s overkill for your needs right now, it’ll be future-proofed for the 4K TV you’ll likely eventually purchase, and it’s the best way to ensure you aren’t thwarted again should your five-year-old Apple TV HD stop running your favorite app. If you’re already paying $150, another $30 isn’t much more to ask.
If you don’t want to buy a new device to use HBO
There’s another simple solution to get HBO content on your older Apple TV, but it’s not as seamless or as pretty as a dedicated app. If your wifi is decent, just use AirPlay to stream an HBO app or browser player from your iPhone, iPad or Mac.
To get started, make sure AirPlay is enabled via the Settings > Airplay section of your Apple TV and that your Apple TV is on the same wifi network as your device.
If you’re on an iPhone or iPad, pull up HBO Now or HBO Go, launch whatever show you want and tap on the sharing icon—it looks like a TV screen with a triangle at the bottom. Pick your Apple TV as an AirPlay target, and you should see your show pop up on your screen. The process should feel a little like this (awesome movie announced voice not included):
If you’re on a Mac, you should be able to pull up HBO on your web browser (I’d use Safari) and stream the contents via AirPlay directly from the video playback controls. If not, you can also just mirror your Mac’s entire screen to your Apple TV—your choice.
Another option for third-generation Apple TVs
Separately, Reddit user dfjdejulio shared this tip for getting HBO content via an app on your third-generation Apple TV:
“They did add the ‘AppleTV’ app to the 3rd gen. Turns out if you subscribe to HBO as an AppleTV “channel,” that works on 3rd gen units. (We still have an old one in our guest room.)
My bet is that will keep working until Apple stops updating the 3rd gen (which they are still doing), and for a few years after that.
Second gen is, I think, simply out of luck.”
If you’re an Apple TV-using HBO subscriber, this news could cause you some headaches and strife as you’re forced to rejigger your setup, but it’s worth investigating the matter now if you want to keep watching the network’s shows without interruption. As the members of a certain group of masked terrorists are wont to say: tick tock.