(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

It's no secret that cable and satellite TV providers have seen a steady decline in customers over the last few years, with a collective transition to streaming services and mobile viewing. The alternatives can offer lower prices, fewer commercials, better content discovery, lower prices and often 4K with HDR. But cable is starting to fight back, with some help from Apple.

Today, Charter Spectrum released its app for the Apple TV, which allows its subscribers to watch live and on-demand TV that is sent over the internet to Apple's streaming device, which plugs into your TV with an HDMI cable. In theory, this gives Spectrum better visibility in an entertainment space that increasingly prioritizes services like Netflix or Hulu over traditional TV.

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Note: You need a 4th-generation Apple TV, or the Apple TV 4K. Spectrum's new app is not officially compatible with older Apple streaming devices. The 4th gen is $149 brand-new, and the 4K version starts at $179.

These are both more expensive than most Roku devices, the Amazon Fire TVs, or a Chromecast, but Apple has also been aggressive about the pricing of 4K content; you can often rent or buy the 4K version of a movie at half the price that you will see on other platforms. So if you watch a lot of 4K videos, that may balance out the higher price tag for the device itself.

With Apple's zero sign-on tech, customers also don't need to enter the user name or password associated with their Spectrum account. All you need to do is connect your Apple TV to Spectrum's cable internet service, and that automatically authenticates you. Just like if you were to connect that cable to your computer.

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If Spectrum customers want to watch live or streaming cable TV while they're on the go, the company also offers an app for Android and iOS. However, not all content is available if you are streaming outside of the home. In which case, competitors like YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV maintain an edge, since they only check to make sure that you're in an eligible region, rather than in a specific building.

It's still a step up from a few years ago, when cable companies didn't offer any streaming content outside of your home. A little competition goes a long way.


  • The cable and internet provider Charter Spectrum has released its live and on-demand TV streaming app for the 4th-generation Apple TV and the Apple TV 4K.
  • With Apple's new "zero sign-on" feature, you don't need to enter a user name or password to connect to the service, as long as your Apple TV is located at your service address and connected to the internet.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.