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Apple has upgraded its Apple TV box, but it’s not yet reinventing TV

It will have 4k features.

Apple’s Eddy Cue onstage in front of a screen showing the Apple TV interface at the iPhone X event
Apple’s Eddy Cue onstage
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

The most recent version of Apple’s Apple TV box hasn’t been a game-changer, for the company or its customers. So now it’s trying an upgrade: The new box will support 4K — super-high-definition — movies and TV shows.

Like many of today’s Apple announcements, this is one we’ve heard about in advance. The new version of Apple TV will cost $179 — the same price as the current generation of the box — and will go on sale Sept. 15. It will start shipping on Sept. 22, Apple media boss Eddy Cue announced today.

As we have also heard, Apple has worked out deals with the major movie studios, which will sell 4k versions of their movies from Apple’s iTunes store.

The studios had wanted to charge a premium for those movies, but Cue said Apple will sell them for the same price it currently sells HD movies — generally around $20 for a new release. And Cue said that Apple customers who have previously bought HD movies can have them automatically upgraded to 4k.

Only a minority of American TV owners own a 4k TV, so this doesn’t seem like a major move on Apple’s part — nice to have, but not a reinvention of the movie and TV business, the way that Apple reinvented the music business years ago. It doesn’t seem like that will happen unless Apple gets deep into the TV and movie business itself.

In the meantime, Apple is making a few other tweaks to Apple TV’s software. A new version of its built-in “TV” app will now showcase live sports, and will highlight certain games based on your team/sport preferences, Cue said.

The TV app will also give you live scores while watching something else, so you can decide to abandon your movie and watch a live game. Cue showcased this (via a screenshot) with ESPN’s Apple TV app, so it’s not clear whether the feature will work with other sports apps. It could become much more interesting next year, when ESPN launches its new standalone sports subscription service.

One thing you won’t be able to get with the new Apple TV, for now: An Amazon Video app, which Apple had previously promised. As we mentioned last month, that one isn’t ready yet. But Cue said it is still coming this year.

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