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Andrew Haglund

Download on Apple TV

The other weekend my wife and I watched the excellent Killers of the Flower Moon on Apple TV+. We opted to skip the theatrical and digital purchase windows despite loving the book and Apple’s caginess around when exactly the film would debut on the streaming service.

Right off the bat the movie’s soundtrack by the late Robbie Robertson set the tone1 and pace. We were hooked. A few minutes in, however, we started noticing blocky pixels — the video stream oscillating between vivid 4K and 240p pixelated mush from minute to minute.

It was just how Marty intended.2

I naively thought pausing would give it a chance to buffer and it’d be smooth sailing. As the stuttering continued I restarted the Apple TV, force quit the TV app, ran a speed test3 and yet the issue persisted. Then the stream completely failed and a panic set upon the room. Life happens pretty fast. You never know the next time you’ll have the time and disposition to watch a three hour movie. It was now or never.

I wondered if the problem was with streaming the movie so I opened the TV app on my iPhone, found the movie, and hit download. A minute later the download completed and I used AirPlay to put it on the TV. The rest of the movie went without a hitch4 and we enjoyed the riveting and heartbreaking story of the Osage killings.

It was less than ideal needing two Apple devices to watch an Apple-produced movie. This is because Apple TV+ in the TV app on the Apple TV hardware does not support downloading video. For inexplicable reasons this overpriced hockey puck comes in 2 storage tiers but you can’t actually store anything on it.

That said I can see why Apple might not want to implement this feature:

Whether you have a slower than average network at home, intermittent server outages, or taking an Apple TV to a hotel or Airbnb TV with crappy Wi-Fi, there are scenarios that could make this feature worthwhile.

The most straightforward solution is offering a download button on the episode or movie detail view — just like on iOS and the Mac. (Maybe a long press on the Play button could expose a menu with this option.)

Another idea is treating download as a fallback to streaming. Maybe the OS could notice streaming quality is low and prompt the user with something like, “Download movie? This can take a few moments but should play without interruption afterwards.” Playback could resume from the same spot using the local file and get automatically offloaded 24 hours later.

I know offline downloading is not a glamorous feature but little touches like this could make the Apple TV a bit more forgiving in the real world.

  1. Parts of it remind me of the Breaking Bad theme music, but extended to cover a 3 hour movie. It’s an excellent listen on its own. ↩︎

  2. Aside from the obvious financial benefits and prestige that come with a theatrical release, I’m sure directors like Scorsese get bummed out by the idea of someone watching their movie on a cramped phone screen or buffering through the first 15 minutes. ↩︎

  3. Totally normal behavior when encountering the slightest delay of internet television. ↩︎

  4. Except when the cable from my iPhone knocked my beer into the living room rug. Less than ideal. ↩︎