June 19, 2013 at 11:48 AM ET
No, Apple TV doesn't have an app store — not yet, anyway — but Apple has been bringing some of the best video apps of iOS over to the teeny $99 streaming media player. On Wednesday, HBO Go and WatchESPN arrived on the platform, joining Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube and others.
HBO Go is what it sounds like, on-demand access to primo HBO content through mobile devices and set-top boxes. Once you're logged in, you can pull up any show or movie in the current lineup, and a ton of back-catalog content too.
WatchESPN covers ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Goal Line or ESPN Buzzer Beater TV, plus some content from ESPN3. (No word on the "Ocho" — sorry dodgeball fans.)
As you might have guessed, HBO Go is only available to customers who pay for HBO as part of their cable, satellite or fiber subscription, and there's a similar deal for WatchESPN. The other prerequisite is Apple TV software version 5.3, which is a free download for people who own the second- and third-generation Apple TV device.
Regardless of the limitations, the news is welcome, not just to "Game of Thrones" fans eager to relive the crushing emotional blows of the Red Wedding, but to anybody wondering about the future of Apple TV. The more content deals Apple can ink up, the better the prospects for that elusive "iTV." If Apple can't do it up big — and that means getting contracts from most or all of Hollywood's biggest content stores — it will fall short. HBO is certainly a must-have these days, at least for premium-content bragging rights.
HBO and WatchESPN aren't the only streaming services joining Apple TV today. Though things vary by country, some customers will also get Sky News, anime hub Crunchyroll and Qello, a service that streams concerts on demand. The current Apple TV lineup also includes live sports from MLB, NBA and NHL, and Internet content from Vimeo and Flickr.
(NBC News is a division of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast, a provider of HBO through the Xfinity cable service.)