Apple Just Nerfed Its Own App to Screw Over Google TV Users

In what appears to be a move to avoid paying Google fees, you can no longer purchase or rent movies from Apple TV.

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Apple TV on Google TV
Image: Google

The Apple TV app on both Google TV and Android TV no longer has an option to purchase or rent movies or TV shows, fueling speculation that Apple has intentionally removed the function to avoid Google’s 30% commission fees.

FlatpanelHD first reported the app downgrade, confirming evidence posted by disgruntled Reddit users. Apple TV was added to Android TV and its successor, Google TV, last year, giving owners of TVs running Google’s software the ability to rent and purchase movies with their Apple accounts.

We tested it ourselves, and sure enough, movies can no longer be rented or purchased. When I attempted to download Spider-Man: No Way Home, the app only gave me a “How to watch” option. Selecting it brought up another screen stating “You can buy, rent, or subscribe in the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, and other streaming devices.” The tabs at the top for Movies, Shows, and Apps, have vanished.

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The tabs for Movies, Shows, and Apps, have vanished, and all that remains on the Apple TV app on Google TV is the option to watch Apple originals when subscribed to Apple TV+. The same “How to watch” prompt also appears beside Apple TV+ shows, suggesting they aren’t available; however, the episodes are viewable below the show’s title page. You can continue renting and buying movies from the Apple TV app if you avoid downloading the latest version and movies purchased or rented can still be accessed from your movie library, even in the latest app version.

Google TV Apple TV app
The prompt Apple TV shows when you attempt to rent/purchase a movie on a Google TV.
Photo: Phillip Tracy/Gizmodo
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We’ve reached out to Apple and Google and will update this article when we hear back.

Apple’s apparent decision to scale back its app on TVs running Google’s platform might be a way of avoiding Google’s 30% commission on in-app purchases, as theorized by FlatpanelHD.

It is unclear why Apple has downgraded its app on Android TV and Google TV but it could be related to commission rates. Like Apple, Google charges a 30% commission on in-app purchases but not all in-app purchases were covered by the agreement in the past. It is possible that new terms were introduced.

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If this is the case, Apple is playing a dangerous game of hypocrisy, having recently defended its own fees after being sued by Fortnite maker Epic Games. In the aftermath of the blockbuster legal battle, Apple was ordered to make it possible for developers to add links to external payment options for apps on the App Store because the company was found to be in violation of California’s Unfair competition Law. Apple continues to face pressure from antitrust authorities around the world.

Apple provided Gizmodo with the following statement:

“We’ve updated the Apple TV app to comply with Google Play’s guidelines around purchases and rentals.”

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We’ve reached back out to Google for clarification on these supposed guidelines and will update this article once we hear back. We know this was not done by accident and the prompt redirecting Google TV users to Apple’s own platform suggests the company has no plans of reintroducing the feature.

Update on March 21: Apple provided a vague statement as to why it removed key features from its apps.

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“We’ve updated the Apple TV app to comply with Google Play’s guidelines around purchases and rentals,”  the company told Gizmodo in an email.

We’ve reached back out to Google for further clarification after the company suggested we contact Apple about the changes. We will update this article once we learn more.