Apple has abruptly removed the option to rent or purchase movies through its Apple TV app on Android TV devices. This also affects devices running Google TV, like the 2020 Chromecast and recent TVs from Sony, TCL, and others. As noted by FlatPanelsHD and 9to5Mac, the previous ability to directly rent or buy content has been removed. And The Verge has found that on-device Apple TV Plus subscriptions are also no longer permitted.
Instead, there’s now a “how to watch” button that directs people to Apple products “or other streaming devices” for rentals, purchases, and Apple TV Plus subscriptions. These changes are not yet reflected on Apple’s Android TV support page, which still lists direct transactions as being supported. Nvidia Shield owners first began noticing the loss of rentals and purchases a few days ago.
The app’s top navigation panel has removed the previous “Movies” and “TV Shows” sections (or “Store” in some cases), leaving only Watch Now, Apple TV Plus, and Library. All of the same movie and TV show listings are still present and searchable. But on any title you pull up, the only choices are now the “how to watch” button and “add to Up Next.”
The Apple TV app first began making its way to select Android TV devices in late 2020 and became widely available on the platform last June. Less than a year later, Apple is now pulling back direct rentals, purchases, and subscriptions — leaving the app to serve as a portal for the content you’ve paid for elsewhere. “Not all devices support on-device transactions, so you may not be able to buy, rent, or subscribe to shows or channels directly,” Apple says on its website.
With the Android TV app, you can still access your existing library and any movies and shows purchased / rented on another device. And that’s a good thing since Apple often delivers higher-bitrate streams than some competing entertainment services.
The Verge has reached out to both Apple and Google for comment on the situation. It’s suspected that this could be a case where Apple no longer wants to give Google a cut of those individual in-app purchases — a point of contention that Apple itself is very familiar with. The Apple TV app on Amazon’s Fire TV platform has never allowed movie rentals or purchases for similar reasons. What has people irked about this situation is that Apple originally provided all of this functionality and has seemingly now changed its mind.
After this change, you’ve still got the option to rent or buy from the Apple TV app on Roku devices, smart TVs from Samsung and LG, Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles, and of course Apple’s own products.