Live TV is obviously the most important and exciting feature of Channels on Apple TV. Here’s some help with what you can do while watching live TV and how to control it.

Live Buffer

Channels’ buffer records up to 90 minutes while you are watching a channel. This means you can rewind backwards up to 90 minutes of what you have watched.

While paused, Channels will continue to record the channel until you press Play again.

Using the on screen timeline, you can see how behind you are from live TV. You can fast forward, seek, or scrub to get to where you want in the buffer.

Once the buffer fills up, Channels will begin playing immediately. You will not be able to stay paused if your buffer is completely full.

The buffer will be emptied whenever you stop watching or change the channel.

Read more about the buffer ❯


Channels’ buffer lets you pause and rewind the live TV you’re watching. To navigate this, it provides a timeline to show you where you are in the buffer.

This a common feature found in most standard DVRs.

Content Info

The timeline shows the art, title of the show, and the name of the episode you are watching. On the right it gives a hint at what’s coming on next.

Hash Marks

The timeline always represents a block of time that the buffer is in. You can determine this by the times on either side of it. Its duration will change based on the size of the buffer you have built up while watching a channel. It is broken up by hash marks to describe blocks of equal time. When the timeline is showing a single hour and there are 4 equal blocks, they represent 15 minutes of time. When it’s showing 2 hours, it will show 8 equal blocks that represent, 15 minutes of time.


Once you’ve watched a channel for a bit, you’ll notice the timeline to start to turn purple. This represents the buffer you have filled up. You are free to rewind all the way back to the beginning of it. The darker purple represents how much you have watched. The lighter purple represents the amount of time left before live TV. The cursor on the timeline represents exactly where you are in the buffer.

Time Shifting

Channels supports a couple different ways to time shift while watching TV.

Read more about the Remote Control ❯

Rewind & Fast Forward

Traditional Rewind and Fast Forward will move backward or forward in a linear fashion. This allows you to see the content while moving backwards or forwards, but is slower. Press and hold the left or right side of the touch surface on the Siri remote to Rewind or Fast Forward.


Scrub lets you quickly scan to a part of the timeline like most other Apple TV apps you’re familiar with. To scrub, pause first, then you can swipe with the Siri remote to scrub through the timeline. Scrub is only available with the Siri remote.


Seek lets you jump forward and backward instantly. Seeking forward will jump ahead 30 seconds and seeking back will jump back 7 seconds. Seek is useful when skipping through commercial breaks. Press the left or right side of the touch surface on the Siri remote to Seek Back or Seek Forward.


Get past a commercial break easier by using seek!. Use Seek Forward to skip ahead multiple times and use Seek Back to slightly correct if you've gone too far.

Last Channel

Channels lets you quickly tune to the last channel you were watching. If you want to bounce between two channels, just double press the Play button and Channels will switch to the previous channel you were watching.

Shake to Mute

While watching TV, you can shake the Siri remote and Channels will instantly mute the audio. Shake to Mute is an option you can turn on and off in Settings. It is off by default.


Shake to Mute may slightly increase the drain on your Siri remote's battery while turned on.

Quick Bar

While watching TV, you can get more information about what you are watching, browse what’s currently on your favorite channels, and access accessibility features of what you are watching.

Swipe down on the Siri remote or press Down on your universal remote to access the Quick Bar.

Favorites Guide

The Favorites Guide will show you what’s currently playing on all of your favorite channels. It shows a more full description of the programs and it will even show a preview of what’s coming on next on those channels.

Press Select on your remote to change the channel to the item you have selected.


When you first pull down the Quick Bar, it will show the current channel you are watching. Use this as a quick way to get more information about what you're watching and what's coming on next.

Closed Captions and Alternate Audio

Channels fully supports the closed captions (CC) and secondary audio programs (SAP) that are included in the TV broadcast you are watching.

To access these, show the Quick Bar and toggle to the tab named “Language”.

Here you can turn closed captions on and off or pick the alternate audio track that you want to hear. Additional audio tracks might include Spanish and other languages or Descriptive Video Service (DVS) for the blind.

About the Buffer

We like to say that Channels can buffer up to 90 minutes of live TV. The truth is, that’s a conservative estimate.

Rather than time, the buffer in Channels is based on data size. Channels has a an upper boundary for how much storage it uses to store the buffer. This ends up working out, on average, to about 90 minutes for HD television.

More than 90 Minutes?

Some factors can lead to being able to buffer even more than 90 minutes worth of TV. Some HD channels or programs use lower bitrates. This means they use less data and storage for the same amount of time. This allows the buffer to store more than 90 minutes.

Some cable channels have started switching over to a more efficient video format. These use almost half the bitrate of the old format. That means you might be able to buffer twice the amount as estimated.

Standard definition channels are extremely lower in size which will allow you to buffer a ton more than 90 minutes.


Channels is a good citizen on your Apple TV.

Channels never uses more storage on your Apple TV than you have available. It is always sure to use what is available while also ensuring there’s plenty of room for other things. You never have to worry that Channels will fill up the storage on your Apple TV.

The Channels buffer will be cleared when you change channels or stop watching.