Apple Screen in Screen support

I'm on Channels Plus version 4.1.0 but do not see Apple's "screen in screen" supported, such as on iOS14 on an iPhone or iPad. That would be really handy: for example sometimes watching the morning news it's necessary to jump to another iOS app then back to the news broadcast: with screen-in-screen the audio and video are seamlessly played. Not so with the current app: when you hit the home button, the broadcast stops.

As has been mentioned numerous times over the past week, Apple's PIP support is incompatible with Channels' video player. Apple only allows certain types of videos to be played PIP, and OTA broadcast video is not one of them.

IsTVE the same as OTA?

No. TVE is streaming from the internet. So, basically Channels has a mix of video formats. Some the native Apple TV player (with pip) can play, but some it cannot. That’s what makes this complicated. There is an app called TV streams that will let you do this, it pulls the stream from the server, but requires the server to transcode OTA content. There is a post with more details in the forums here. Link to the app:

Here is that thread: TV Streams app + Channels DVR, allows for live TV watching via PiP on iPad

Note that this "TV Streams" app allows for Picture in Picture in the iOS and iPadOS versions. The MacOS and tvOS versions don't appear to support Picture in Picture at this time.

This is an untenable position to continue taking in 2020.

It’s only incompatible because the developers have chosen to make it so. There were beta versions of the Channels apps that did include PiP support. Was it perfect? No. Did it have issues? Yes. But it’s a lot better than the situation we have today.

Continuing to stick your heads in the sand while the Apple ecosystem marches on without you is not a sustainable position. Yes, Apple prevents custom-built players from doing PiP - but that’s the risk you take when you build one and stray too far from Apple’s developer guidance on these topics.

To be sure, there are some technical advantages to this approach - but there’s one huge disadvantage: the users get left out when new core OS features are released.

I am a paying user. I am happy to be a paying user. I’m even willing to pay more. But the Channels team really needs to openly recognize the realities of the iOS ecosystem and implement what are now expected capabilities of any serious video / streaming / DVR app on iOS.

Having to go to extraordinary lengths to view PiP (aka using the Channels web interface) is nuts. Yeah, it works - but it shouldn’t need to be done. It’s clear this is one of the top most-requested features and there’s been precious little managing of the community or expectations here by the developers. It’s frustrating.

I love independent developers. I want to support independent developers. You’re making it harder by the week to do so.

You provide a terrific product in many ways. You’re killing that good will one paper cut at a time by ignoring this elephant in the room.

Not sure what you mean by this. It’s incompatible because a very large portion of channels content for many users come from OTA tuners and is in MPEG2 format, which the built-in iOS player does not support.

Are you sure about that? I don’t ever recall Channels offering pip for Apple devices, beta or otherwise.

Not true. If you cared to read the existing posts, you'd know that Channels' custom video player is required to present H.262/MPEG-2 encoded video, which is what most broadcast/cable streams in the US are. If Channels did not use its own custom video player, it would be incapable of doing its primary goal: letting users watch their TV streams.

You're saying it's better for Channels to abandon their primary user base so you can have a single feature? Delivering your single feature request will make it impossible for users to access their live cable/OTA direct from their network HDHomeRun tuners, and require all users to purchase a Channels Plus subscription and invest time, money and resources to run a Channels DVR server 24/7.

Until Apple adds support for H.262/MPEG-2 video to their native player, or all broadcasts no longer use this codec, it is highly unlikely Channels will offer PiP.

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For a brief while, there was an iOS beta that would open a Safari window with a stream fed from the DVR server, and put it into PiP mode. It was a hack, and did not work for users that did not enable tuner sharing, nor for users who did not have a DVR server. It also was neither smooth nor consistent, and didn't always work well.

These shortcomings were why the feature was scrapped.

Thanks for straightening me out.

There was PiP just for the iPad in beta for awhile a few years back but it never went live.

It is entirely possible to switch players, in realtime. Plex, which has a custom player, does it, as do others. I’m a developer as well...it’s not like I’m talking crazy-talk here. :smile: It is possible to make work - the developers have simply chosen not to.

Let’s talk about MPEG-2 for a moment. Okay, the built in player doesn’t support MPEG-2...the DVR is perfectly capable of transcoding video to H.264 - the developers have simply chosen not to implement or prioritize this because they want to focus elsewhere.

It’s long past time for the clear wellspring of support for this feature to come to the forefront.

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Yes, the DVR does. But the Channels app on iOS/iPadOS does not require a DVR server. The Channels client allows users to connect to a local HDHomeRun tuner; in this scenario transcoding is impossible, because it simply isn't present.

You may be a developer, and we all acknowledge that supporting PiP is technically possible—this has never been in doubt—but its implementation to ably support all customers with a great experience is quite the conundrum. Just because things simply can be done doesn't necessarily mean they will be done.

So, as has been stated time and again: it's not going to happen right now. The developers know it is a requested feature, but they are working on other features right now. If PiP is a necessary feature for you at this moment, then you are welcome to find other software that suits your needs.

I’ll add a couple of more things here:

  1. Given the massive upswell in the forum on TVE - I’m not so sure that the “majority” of the user base is using pure OTA. But even if it is, it’s not a justification to alienate what is clearly a very significant double-digit percentage of the user base. That argument just doesn’t hold water.

  2. Expecting Apple to be anything other than Apple is unwise, to put it kindly. :smile: They will not support MPEG-2. You have to live in the world we are in, not the one people want to exist. In this world, Apple has made it’s roadmap clear. They’re looking forward, not back. Channels is choosing to be addled by a 25-year-old legacy codec and forcing everyone to stick their collective heads in the sand that the iOS and tvOS worlds aren’t marching on.

Reencode the video to H.264 automatically, or give users the option to do so. It’s not rocket science in 2020. Again - this is 2020 and we’re here talking about a codec that old guys like me were around for the creation of. :smile: We have the technology to do this. Hell, we have hardware-accelerated capabilities to do this in 2020.

Yet we’re left to sit here and watch the rest of the world go by, or create absolutely unnecessary workarounds like creating a web app or web shortcut to do what the app should do by default and create the best user experience.

Except it doesn’t.

By choice. The developers aren’t helpless. They’re perfectly capable of implementing all this. They’ve built a terrific app and DVR solution in the face of a lot of competition...but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and it needs to evolve in this dimension substantially.

@racameron I’m not sure what you’re defending here. To say that “they can’t because Apple won’t let them” is just not an honest answer. It isn’t. This is a solved problem. Lots of other players have solved it. It’s long past time for Channels to solve it.

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Let me concede the point that sure, the app, without connecting to the DVR, can’t do it.

But those of us that pay (aka me), would gladly pay for a solution that does.

To use your argument, the experience is already compromised - because this is an app that has two experiences - one for non-DVR users, and one for DVR users. The non-DVR experience is the best it can be. The DVR experience is crippled in some ways (PiP, but there are other ways as well unfortunately).

I’ve been around this app since it’s initial launch. I’m well aware of it’s history. Not prioritizing this feature after several years of PiP availability is unconscionable.

And I’d argue...let the developers speak for themselves, and clearly explain their roadmap and position. We’re just a bunch of non-developers (of this app), some of us paying for many years (aka me). I have a voice. I will avail myself of it. Let’s not stifle discussion.

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