Read next: The Apple TV review.
The NFL is coming to Apple TV, but not in the way that most fans really want. A new NFL Now app is due later this month for Apple's set-top box, and it promises to offer original content, game highlights, plenty of video from the NFL's archives, and live streams for press conferences and other off-field events. That's all well and good, but there's no way to watch live games. And it won't be coming. Not this year. DirecTV has outright said that Sunday Ticket won't support Apple TV for the 2014 season. That hurts, and it's especially disappointing since you can watch all of the NFL's weekly action live pretty much everywhere else.
Plenty of highlights, no live action
Sunday Ticket is available on desktop, smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles, but not Apple's living room device. NFL Now may satisfy casual fans who don't need to see every minute of every game, but it won't be a selling point for the Apple TV anytime soon. Sadly, the iOS Sunday Ticket app doesn't include AirPlay support, a feature that would all but make up for the lack of a proper Apple TV option. And the reason for that may very well come down to money.
Microsoft paid millions to make Xbox One your football companion
Microsoft desperately wants its Xbox One to be the go-to companion for football fans, and it's invested heavily to make that happen. The new NFL app on Xbox offers a level of interactivity that no one else can really match at the moment. There's NFL Now content, sure, but Microsoft also offers full Sunday Ticket integration; you can even keep up with your fantasy roster while playing Titanfall. Microsoft reportedly paid somewhere around $400 million to put Xbox One in that desirable position.
It's easy to envision the possibilities and grand second-screen football experience that Apple could create between iPhones and the Apple TV if the NFL and DirecTV played along. But so far the league hasn't been nearly as freewheeling as MLB and even WWE in putting live content on every screen. Football demands a bigger premium, as proven by the Microsoft deal. Apple likely wants something better for its users. Who wouldn't? But when competitors are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to lock up the best experiences, you start to understand why the company constantly faces hurdles in trying to evolve Apple TV. Apple's got every other major sport in its corner, but it's hard to do TV without the NFL.