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Thursday, December 08, 2011, 08:24 am PT (11:24 am ET)

Buying & streaming TV shows comes to Apple TV in Canada, UK & Australia

Apple TV users in Australia, Canada and the U.K. can now purchase and stream episodes of television shows directly to Apple's set-top box without the need for a computer.

The functionality was added overnight to the Apple TV set-top box, and does not require a software update. Previously, users could not purchase content directly from the Apple TV, and it needed to be downloaded to a computer on the user's local network first.

Now, Apple's new iCloud functionality which allows the re-downloading and streaming of TV episodes has been brought to more users outside of the U.S. Customers in the U.K., Australia and Canada can now access their iCloud library of TV shows, and stream that content directly to the Apple TV without downloading it to a Mac or PC.

The functionality originally came to Apple TV users in the U.S. in early August in the form of a software update. The purchasing and streaming options were expanded shortly before Apple opted to abandon its plan for 99 cent rentals of TV shows, citing lack of consumer interest.

The Apple TV was redesigned in a major overhaul in 2010, giving the $99 hardware a smaller footprint and basing its operating system on the same iOS platform that powers the iPhone and iPad. But in recent months, speculation has grown that Apple's next move will be to build a full-fledged television set for release in late 2012.