The joy of Apple TVs and AirPlay
Whether you have one Apple TV or several, one of the device's best features is AirPlay support. In particular, with AirPlay Mirroring enabled on your Mac or iPad, you can view almost any content on your TV. (If you have an older Mac that doesn't support Apple's implementation of AirPlay Mirroring, you can use AirParrot instead.)
I've used AirPlay Mirroring to send slideshows from iPhoto on a Mac to our big screen. It even works well with some iOS games; at the very least, it makes a player's game progress easier for others to watch.
I especially like to use AirPlay Mirroring for viewing Web video in Safari--when it's not available on YouTube, for example (otherwise, I could watch it directly from the Apple TV's YouTube app). I've also used it to watch network television shows that stream from the network's website.
Perhaps my most frequent use of AirPlay, though, is with HBO Go on my iPad. This app offers "on demand" access to all content currently available from HBO. Though HBO initially blocked the app from working with AirPlay, the network shifted gears a few months ago and now permits it. The app works directly with AirPlay, bypassing the need for Mirroring, so you get better display quality. With my multiple Apple TVs, I can now watch any available HBO show from any of my televisions at any time I want.
You'll need an HBO subscription from a cable or satellite provider to access HBO Go's content; but once you have it, AirPlay can send the content to any television with an Apple TV. The television doesn't need to have a provider's set-top box attached. It doesn't even need to be in your home. Though I haven't tested this capability, I believe that you can take your iPad (and Apple TV, if needed) to a friend's house and watch HBO Go on their television over their Wi-Fi network--even if your friend doesn't subscribe to HBO.
As great as using AirPlay with my Apple TVs is, accessing the same content directly would be even better. That's why I'd like to see an Apple TV App Store where I could install third-party apps, such as HBO Go, to the Apple TV itself--something you can already do with the competing Roku box.
The coming joy of Apple TVs and cord-cutting
Apple TV includes a multitude of options for watching television shows. The aforementioned Netflix offers a fantastic collection of great series, all available on demand with no commercials. Currently, I am rewatching the The West Wing and catching up on prior seasons of Mad Men. For shows not available via Netflix, you can try Hulu Plus. Or you can mirror content from any network's website. Another alternative is to purchase shows from the iTunes Store. With the Store option, you can set up a Season Pass to download upcoming shows automatically. I'd like to be able to rent TV shows at a reduced cost compared to purchasing, but I don't see Apple implementing that option any time soon.
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