Apple TV in Canada: Yay or Nay?
February 14, 2012 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Tell me everything about AppleTV in Toronto.

Previous questions on this topic are a couple of years old, so...

1. Is it a viable alternative to cable?

2. Can we watch every single Ottawa Senators game, live?

3. What kind of cap do I need for my internet service? Streaming/downloading content from the internet means... more... bits... of internet... used? Talk to me like I'm five.

4. Cost? The box costs around $100, Netflix is $8/month... I'm assuming something like NHL Centre Ice can be purchased. I'm currently paying over $100 per month for cable. Can Apple TV really be this cheap? What's the catch?

5. What about this "jailbreaking" thing I keep hearing about?

6. Tell me what you love/hate about your Apple TV.
posted by lizifer to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
1. Is it a viable alternative to cable?

As long as you can get the stuff you want to watch, sure! Certainly it is for me. But...

2. Can we watch every single Ottawa Senators game, live?

Probably not. I believe the NHL content on AppleTV has the same limitations on its games as all other ways to access Cent(re/er) Ice, which explicitly excludes all games carried on national channels (CBC, TSN, TSN 2 or RDS.)

4. Cost? The box costs around $100, Netflix is $8/month... I'm assuming something like NHL Centre Ice can be purchased. I'm currently paying over $100 per month for cable. Can Apple TV really be this cheap? What's the catch?

Well, the "catch" is that you won't have a lot of the content you get over cable. Netflix has a lot, but it's missing a lot, especially among recent (ie, last couple of seasons) shows - and that's here in the US, where it's a much larger library. But, yes, it really does - for very little money - give me a lot of stuff to watch.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:02 AM on February 14, 2012

1. In Canada, not really. You can rent a lot of episodes on iTunes, but your best bet is to check their selection on iTunes first to see if it would work for you.

2. Nope, not if you're in or anywhere near Ottawa. Also won't let you watch any playoffs, or any nationally broadcast games. And there's usually a local area blackout because games are ideally being broadcast locally over the air (this is not often the case). The real goal of Centre Ice is to allow you to watch out-of-market games.

3. Depends on your usage, really. I'd want at least 20GB/month for streaming usage, but if you're a heavy user for other things that requirement could easily go up.

4. The AppleTV is a source for Apple to sell/rent you media from iTunes. Netflix's selection for Canadian users is not a viable replacement if you have current TV shows you like following.

5. Jailbreaking allows you to run custom software on the AppleTV, like XBMC. This makes it easier to stream media from your own network that's not in Apple friendly formats (ie: XVid, MKV, etc)

For me, the best solution was a Boxee box set up with an American VPN service. Before the VPN, I had MLB.TV and to my surprise it would block out ALL Blue Jays games because I'm in Canada. The VPN service helped solve that. It also gave me access to the American Netflix, which is far superior to Canadian Netflix.
Then for my day to day TV watching, I often download episodes from various online sources which should remain nameless.
posted by smitt at 11:04 AM on February 14, 2012

Oh, I should also mention that I have the Boxee set up combined with an HD antenna to pull local TV stations in high def. I get about 10 stations in wonderful quality this way.
posted by smitt at 11:06 AM on February 14, 2012

If you want to access American video, look into a service like Unblock-us which proxies Hulu, Netflix, and other video sites (you just change your router to use their DNS). At $5/month it's worth it for the expanded Netflix selection alone.
posted by Gortuk at 11:20 AM on February 14, 2012

Be aware that Apple seems to be about a few weeks away from releasing a new AppleTV. At least, that's the rumor mill, with Apple not restocking AppleTV right now.

OTOH that may be a good reason to rush out and buy an AppleTV 2.0 right now since it's so easy to hack. I just got one and jailbroke it so I can run PLEX, an awesome home media server. It's a terrific way to play your own videos and streams. I can't tell you whether you could find a source of live hockey via PLEX, but if you do it's almost certainly not going to be licensed. Jailbreaking right now is relatively easy if you are patient and technically inclined, this guide on using seas0npass is up to date (despite its age).

If I were interested in live TV I'd probably look into some solution involving a TV tuner. Boxee just released a TV tuner. Not sure if Smitt's using that one or some hacked up solution, but either way I suspect it's a better solution than jailbreaking an AppleTV and trying to find some dodgy source online.

AppleTV is cheap in part because the box is very simple; it's basically an iPod Touch only without the touchscreen, 8 gigs of storage, and only 720p output. Also it's so cheap because it's a way for Apple to get more iTunes customers who will then buy videos from Apple.
posted by Nelson at 11:24 AM on February 14, 2012

If you can figure out how to watch the Sens live, I'd love to hear it. My solution (to watch the Canucks) is kludgy, but works.

I cut cable over a year ago. I have a Boxee Box instead of Apple TV. I have US Netflix (using To ge the hockey games, I get CBC HD over the air via antenna, and use AirPlay from my iPhone/iPad via the Canucks Live App, which gives me streaming of all Canucks games shown on Sportsnet. (I assume there's an equivalent app for the Senators?) And yeah, because not everything I want is available via iTunes, I also have a NAS with a torrent app built in.

WIth the addition of the CBC via the BoxeeBox LiveTV antenna (any antenna wil work though), it's made my system complete -- i'm actually pretty happy with it. The only bad part is either my iPhone or iPad is otherwise occupied when the game is on Sportsnet.
posted by cgg at 11:48 AM on February 14, 2012

Nelson: I'm just running the wire from my antenna into my TV right now, I might pick up that Boxee tuner when I have an extra $50 lying around (but that doesn't happen often enough, sadly).

artificialard: I've been using StrongVPN for a few months and have had nothing reject me or identify me as connecting from a VPN. YMMV. Netflix announces when I connect "We see you're travelling in the United States, our selection is a bit different here!" (something along those lines). I use the VPN on my Boxee, and also on my iPhone to access Netflix US on the iPhone.
posted by smitt at 11:49 AM on February 14, 2012

Isn't there a lower tier cable service available? $100 seems excessive. I pay $10 a month for the most basic digital cable (which includes HD). It gets discounted to $0 since I have internet service.

It seems like you could have the best of both worlds.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:00 PM on February 14, 2012

wongcorgi: Welcome to Canada. The cheapest, non-digital or non-HD package I can get from my local cable provider (note I didn't say "providers", cable competition isn't allowed) is $30.44/month plus taxes.
If I want digital, I need to look into adding a rental cable box, which will cost at least $4/month for the most basic featureless version they offer. It's a non-HD receiver. If I want the HD receiver, I need to pay $9.99/month.
(note: This is for Cogeco Cable.)
posted by smitt at 12:17 PM on February 14, 2012

I live in Toronto and use Witopia as my VPN. Able to use Netflix USA no problem, on computers and iOS devices. (I have an American account.) They have tons of international servers too, including UK, France, Asia etc.

(Interestingly, if you have a UK VPN connection active, and you log into Netflix with your American account, they give you access to the UK content instead, which has lots of stuff unavailable in North America.) is great for high-speed downloading of torrents, managed by an excellent Web interface with in-browser streaming, mobile formats, RSS subscription capability and inter-user sharing. $5/$10 month via PayPal.
posted by teedee2000 at 12:22 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can view what is on the Netflix Canada site at Instant Watcher.

Jailbreaking is pretty simple (I'm technically minded, and pretty comfortable with SSH). I followed the guide Nelson points to above - although I had to plug mine in order for step 5 to being (and had to unplug it before Step 6 would happen). Installed XBMC and Navi-X which lets me watch Twit.TV, and other stuff, I'm sure.
posted by backwards guitar at 1:03 PM on February 14, 2012

You have to be careful with free HD by antenna in Ottawa. If you live somewhere like Sandy Hill, you can't pick up much because there are too many hills between you and where it is broadcast.
posted by Gor-ella at 2:09 PM on February 15, 2012

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