More smart TVs are getting Apple AirPlay but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use it


    Rob Pegoraro, Special for USA TODAY
    Published 11:08 a.m. ET Feb. 13, 2019

    The impending arrival of smart TVs that support Apple’s AirPlay in-home video streaming may bring an unpleasant realization to many subscribers: Many pay-TV providers’ phone and tablet apps won’t let them stream video directly from their iPhone, iPad or Mac to one of those new displays.

    That means users could still be stuck watching video on the smallest screens at home.

    This has been a problem for years, but with LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio set to soon sell TVs that can display an AirPlay stream from an iPhone or iPad, the issue will become more obvious.

    Up until now, you had to plug an Apple TV streaming-media player into your TV to stream video from your Apple device to the set. New TVs with Apple’s streaming video feature AirPlay built-in should make the connection easier. But that might not be so for pay-TV subscribers.

    Here’s the breakdown among some top pay-TV providers:

    AT&T has AirPlay disabled in the apps it provides for its U-verse and DirecTV services, a provision the company attributed to those apps being built for watching away from home.

    Comcast disables AirPlay in its Xfinity Stream app; the company says that’s the result of digital-rights-management restrictions programmers require it to enforce.

    Cox doesn’t allow AirPlay output in its Contour app “for a variety of both technical and contractual reasons (that we can’t share),” spokesman Todd Smith said in an email.

    Dish Network permits AirPlay output from its Dish Anywhere app, aside from on-demand content.

    Optimum does not enable AirPlay output in its app. “Our apps were designed for viewing content on mobile devices as a companion to our TV service,” Janet Meahan, a spokesperson for its parent firm Altice, said in an e-mail. “However, we are looking into incorporating casting and other capabilities to ensure a great app experience on larger screens.”

    Verizon only allows limited AirPlay from its Fios TV app, with output limited on a show-by-show basis. That represents a downgrade from the situation a year and a half ago, when it supported that output for most live and on-demand content, and users have complained accordingly in their reviews of the app.

    Whatever the stated reasons, these restrictions can become not just a usability problem but a financial issue if they prevent you from getting rid of a cable or satellite box and its monthly fee.

    (Comcast is a notable exception, offering streaming apps for Roku boxes and some Samsung connected TVs, with support for LG and Sony sets coming soon. But using one of those apps typically only saves you $2.50 a month, thanks to other second-screen fees that Comcast still tacks onto your bill.)

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    Meanwhile, online-only streaming services such as AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Google’s YouTube TV and Hulu’s live service all enable AirPlay and don’t require any monthly hardware fees. Recent hikes in rates of streaming services should not obscure that fact – and to judge from the estimated 1.2 million people who dumped traditional pay TV in the third quarter of 2018, cord-cutting viewers are not losing sight of this economic reality.

    (Disclosure: I also write for Yahoo Finance, a subsidiary of Verizon’s media division.) 

    Rob Pegoraro is a tech writer based out of Washington, D.C. To submit a tech question, e-mail Rob at rob@robpegoraro.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/robpegoraro.

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