Old AppleTV boxes will lose HBO apps. Is that a big deal?

Updated: The Verge reports that HBO Now will be extended until the end of the month while HBO GO will be extended for a few more months. It’s unclear if this has any effect on the HBO Max launch.

It’s been reported by several blogs in the last few days that the HBO GO and HBO Now apps will stop working on older AppleTV hardware fairly soon. I have every reason to believe it’s true. And really, it’s no big deal.

Here are the details, as I know them

The second and third generation AppleTV boxes will lose support for HBO GO and HBO NOW with the next update. It’s no surprise since those devices were superseded by newer hardware back in 2015. More importantly, 2015 saw the launch of TvOS, a new operating system which allowed for a true “App Store” and third-party developers.

Before TvOS, the app development process was handled by Apple in a very different way. Apple would work with streaming providers to develop apps that worked within the menuing and interface guidelines they had set up, so every app looked essentially the same. (At the time everyone thought this was a good thing.)

TvOS in 2015 was actually the first chance that developers got to essentially port their iOS apps to a streaming platform with any sort of independence or creativity.

So, when Apple says these older apps won’t work anymore, they’re just saying that something is changing that the old app won’t support. They stopped really developing these old-style apps years ago.

So what’s happening really?

What’s happening really, as far as I can see, is that AT&T is getting ready for the launch of HBO Max. This probably means a lot of technical changes to the way stuff is streamed. Maybe they are using more efficient compression or bringing in the possibility of 4K. I don’t truly know.

Which, by the way, brings up the question of what will happen to the HBO GO and HBO Now apps once HBO Max launches. There’s been very little said in public about this. I would guess those two apps would just go away, maybe you get a message on screen telling you to load a different app. Maybe you just wake up one day and it’s been updated to HBO Max. I really doubt the older platforms have any future past May or June and that’s totally ok.

There’s no technical reason all of this couldn’t make it back to the older AppleTV boxes. It’s just that no one sees the point of putting out the effort for boxes that are between five and nine years old. Can you blame them?

So those old boxes are obsolete?

Well not yet but they’re getting there. This isn’t the first app to pull support from those old boxes. They lost YouTube support years ago. But, you can still use them to manage your iTunes content or mirror your phone’s screen to the TV. But they’re clearly on their way out.

Honestly folks, I like being sustainable and making the most of what I’ve bought. But these boxes are getting very old indeed. When new they were only $99 and today they don’t perform as well as a $49 streaming stick. It would be great if someone came up with a third-party OS for these boxes. Then you could use them for something else. Still, after 10 years they’ve earned a bit of rest.

The only issue at the moment is that Apple makes their boxes  insanely expensive compared to the competition. The build quality and powerful components give them bragging rights, but really offer very little benefit. You an get the Apple TV app on Roku and select Samsung TVs, and the Movies Anywhere app lets you port most of that content to other apps too. If you use Apple Music on your TV I suppose there’s some reason to keep them.

It would be great if Apple could come up with a $69 box that just did the basics, even if it didn’t run games or support some of the fancier stuff. They won’t though, that’s just not what they do.

So, yes the reports are true…

…but the outrage is false. Just because these apps won’t work on older hardware doesn’t mean the sky is falling. If you want to keep using HBO apps, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to get them.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.