TV app on Apple TV hardware frustrating users with large libraries
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Most users with giant movie or TV show libraries accumulated since when iTunes media purchases began are having problems loading content on Apple TV hardware — an issue that has persisted for years.
Apple has offered movies on iTunes since 2006, and avid users have taken advantage. Thanks to Apple's ecosystem integration and customer-focused moves like automatic 4K movie upgrades, it has been a compelling platform for buying digital movies.
However, anyone who has amassed large libraries over the years has noticed a slow creep in technical debt on Apple TV hardware. Depending greatly on Internet speed, libraries in the thousands of titles would take a minute or more to load content in the Apple TV library tab.
In the experience of some AppleInsider employees that have large libraries, they've noticed that it took increasingly longer to load purchased content as early as the Apple TV 3 — the pre-App Store model. They attributed it to slow internet connections alongside large libraries and tried to ignore it.
This issue became less noticeable as time went on because of the advent of the Apple TV app and Siri search. Users could find a movie by searching through the interface and watching it via purchases or another streaming service.
But whenever someone went to the Library tab, they could easily count to 30 before movies showed up — again, attributing it to a large library size. One AppleInsider employee has over 1,000 movies and has experienced these long load times for years.
We've seen this issue primarily in the Apple TV app's library tab. The iTunes Movies and TV Shows apps load content in only a few seconds, even though it is loading the same library.
The Apple TV app and iTunes apps may be loading the same user-purchased libraries, but they are loading them differently. While a difference in media thumbnails between the two apps may contribute to the load times, large library size is likely the primary issue with Apple TV app load times.
Sigmund Judge, Apple TV aficionado and editor of Screen Times, performed an experiment showing how the Apple TV app loads user libraries across platforms. In the Twitter thread below, Judge shows how the Apple TV app running on an Apple TV 4K takes nearly 40 seconds to populate his library tab of 3,200 movies, which is in line with our experience.
Apple TV fandom, where did it begin? For me and millions like me the answer is 2006 with the introduction of iTunes 7 & Movie purchases.— Sigmund Judge (@sigjudge) January 26, 2023
16 years on, after building sizeable collections, Apple's most loyal TV customers have a problem. Library tab lockups on Apple TV hardware... pic.twitter.com/jGntUIRJVL
Judge then shows how different platforms with the Apple TV app load the Library tab. Roku Stick 4K, Playstation, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast, and others load the tab instantly.
We've checked on our available hardware and confirmed that our library loads instantly on anything that isn't an Apple TV set-top box.
After submitting the issue a few months ago with no fix in sight I thought I'd see how popular third party platforms faired whilst loading my library via Apple's TV.— Sigmund Judge (@sigjudge) January 26, 2023
Roku Stick 4K HDR (instant) pic.twitter.com/PT20xpfhXE
As Judge points out, it isn't clear what is causing this issue, but the TV app on Apple TV hardware appears to be attempting to load the entire library at once. There doesn't appear to be any attempt to load handfuls at a time, nor is there any data caching.
Every time Apple's TV app is force-quit and reopened, the library tab must reload from scratch. This seems like an outdated interaction that should have been solved by Apple TVs with larger internal storage, now maxing out at 128GB.
Whatever is causing this issue on Apple TV hardware, we hope to see a fix in the coming updates. Apple is expected to announce tvOS 17 in June during WWDC, and that would be a prime time to address its most loyal customer base, which owns hundreds or thousands of movies.