As the current Apple TV continues to add countless new and sometimes unfamiliar channels to the home screen, the out-of-the-box experience grows increasingly complex for new and existing users. The Apple TV home screen consists of colorful rectangles that represent various content providers for serving up entertainment over the Internet to your television, but actually finding something to watch can prove difficult and intimidating for even a seasoned Apple TV owner. Many of the channels require authenticating an active cable or satellite subscription to unlock full access while others are interest-specific likes sports or culture.
Apple TV’s user interface is meant to simulate an iPhone or iPad home screen with apps being channels and the theme optimized for the living room, and you can customize the app arrangement on your Apple TV similarly to your other iOS devices. While you cannot explicitly delete channels from your Apple TV, you can rearrange or even hide all but the very top row of channels in a few short steps provided in this How-To guide.
Whether you’re new to Apple TV or you’ve been using the streaming media box for years, these tips will help you wrangle the dozens of channels bundled into shape. When gifting or setting up an Apple TV to a non-technical friend or family member, I highly recommend taking into consideration which channels will be useful and which may not be. Follow up the process by sharing this tutorial or teaching them how to unhide existing channels or hide new channels in the future as Apple continues to add new partners.
Important to note before we jump in: Apple TV includes a dock-like row of channels that break out iTunes services into Movies, TV Shows, Music, iTunes Radio, and Computers (for Home Sharing content from iTunes on your Mac or PC). These channels are considered core to the Apple TV experience and cannot be rearranged or hidden. Additionally, the Settings app is required for adjusting preferences and managing the Apple TV; it can be rearranged anywhere below the top docked row of channels, but it cannot be hidden.
Rearranging the channel lineup is the easiest way to customize your Apple TV home screen to better serve your experience. This allows you to move the channels you actually use near the top of your home screen anywhere below the core channels mentioned in the previous section. New channels tend to plop themselves freely among your current arrangement when they come in, so you’ll likely want to repeat this process as new content is added. There’s also not much rhyme or reason to the standard Apple TV channel arrangement which makes remembering which channels are located a bit difficult without practice.
Aside from completely hiding unused channels to remove the clutter from the home screen which we’ll discuss in the next section, my preference for arrangement tends to use an alphabetical system save for a few frequently used channels. If you can remember the channel name, you can easily decide whether it’s higher or lower on your home screen. Alternatively, you may decide to organize channels in rows based on categories like news, sports, music, or movies and TV shows.
Using the included black and silver Apple TV Remote, you can move a channel by holding down the silver center button on a highlighted icon. This will prompt the icon to animate in a wobbling motion signaling that you’ve selected it for an action. Using the black ring D-Pad on the Apple TV Remote, you can now move the selected channel left, right, up, or down. Clicking the silver center button once more will save the channel’s location on your home screen when you decide its place. This allows you to move channels between rows and columns in the arrangement that best suits you. The same technique can be used with the Remote app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and likely the Apple Watch when it debuts next month.
While rearranging channels can help with moving your favorite channels higher on your home screen and demoting unused channels to the lonely depths of the fourth or fifth row, hiding channels is ultimately the most effective way to remove clutter from your Apple TV home screen. Limiting the channel lineup to the core six channels plus a half dozen more offers a refreshing experience relative to the overwhelming out-of-the-box grid of rectangles we’re all familiar with. You can even go to the extreme of easily hiding all but the docked channels and Settings app then add channels back as you notice the need for more content.
My personal preference includes displaying a few apps that have quality free content that interests me or channels where I have an active subscription for service. Authenticating my cable subscription isn’t supported by most of the channels and many wouldn’t be of interest even if they were completely free so hiding these is an easy decision. The result is a sleeker, more personalized home screen resembling the early iPhone that even visiting friends and family can recognize and navigate.
There are two methods to hiding channels from your Apple TV home screen. If you just want to hide one or two channels, you can do this quickly from the home screen. Select a channel by holding down the Apple TV Remote’s center silver button until the icon jiggles. The next step is a little less obvious, although the Apple TV briefly presents a banner with a hint: press the Play/Pause button to activate a model sub-menu of options when a selected icon is animated. The current menu has only two options: ‘Hide This Item’ or ‘Cancel’. Selecting the former option will do just what it says, and your home screen will no longer present the hidden channel. This process is fine if you’re quickly hiding a channel or two, but there’s a faster method that you’ll want to know for the next section, restoring channels, as well.
Moved to a less buried location on Apple TV last September alongside the release of iOS 8.0, the Settings app now contains an easy-to-find Main Menu section for choosing which channels are visible and which are hidden. Previously, this menu was located under the Restrictions menu. The list is alphabetical (thoughtful, right?) so you can quickly jump through the 60 and counting channels without having to hunt, and the channel icon is presented left of the channel title so you know exactly what you’re hiding or unhiding. This process is simple: click the channel title to hide a visible channel and the status label will change from ‘Show’ to ‘Hide’. The status label is a little confusing once you start toggling because Show and Hide, for me at least, but here’s the rule: a channel is hidden if the label says Hide, and a channel is visible (by default) if the label says Show.
You may change your mind about hiding a channel or want to restore a mistakingly hidden channel that you meant to keep. While there is no way to do this directly from the home screen, the process is as simple as hiding a channels from the Main Menu section in the Settings channel. Find the channel within the list and click it to toggle its state from hidden to visible. Hiding and restoring a channel is harmless and will not sign you out of any services as the Apple TV isn’t actually deleting any information.
Now that you know how to personalize your Apple TV home screen and remove any channels that you may never watch, your Apple TV should feel as new as the day you bought it … unless you bought it recently and opened the box to the 60+ channels offered on the home screen in which case your new, simpler home screen is better than new.
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