The YouTube app is officially discontinued for third-generation Apple TV boxes. The third-gen box was released in 2012 and lacks an App Store. What are your alternative ways to stream to a TV in 2021?

YouTube has ended support for the third-generation Apple TV. If you try and launch the YouTube app on the device, you are now greeted with a message that says the platform is no longer supported.

YouTube only works with AirPlay on this device

The YouTube app is no longer available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on Apple TV 4K, Apple TV HD, iPhone or iPad. With AirPlay, you can also stream YouTube from your iOS device directly to any Apple TV (3rd generation or later). For a list of supported devices, please visit yt.be/tv-devices.

The third-gen Apple TV is quite old, with its 2012 release dating back almost a decade. The platform does not run on tvOS and does not offer an App Store. This makes it almost impossible for video content providers to keep supporting it, as they cannot push meaningful updates. YouTube is just the latest casualty of the deprecation.

When trying to launch YouTube on the third-generation Apple TV going forwards, the error message suggests that users can continue to show YouTube videos on their third-gen Apple TV via AirPlay. This is one alternative, although it requires the use of a secondary phone or tablet to work with the Apple TV only being used as a wireless video output.

Apple would obviously like you to upgrade from the third-gen box to one of its newer models, either the Apple TV 4K or Apple TV HD. Despite sharing the same name, these devices run a completely different operating system, support all of the latest video services and have an App Store where companies like YouTube or Netflix can push out continuous updates. The newer Apple TVs also support a lot more than just video streaming, with an ecosystem of Apple Arcade games, Apple Fitness+ workouts and such. However, Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K are not cheap: priced at $149 and up.

As my colleague Zac Hall pointed out, there is no direct replacement from Apple for this product, and that’s a shame. The newer Apple TVs are in a vastly different price class to the third-gen, which was once sold as low as $69. As well as being expensive, the Apple TV 4K is several years old at this point making it an even worse deal.

For price-sensitive customers looking to replace their third-gen Apple TV, right now the best products come from companies other than Apple. You can look at something like an Amazon Fire Stick, which comes with support for YouTube, Netflix, the Apple TV app and almost any video service you can think of.

However, for Apple users, the best option right now is probably the Roku Ultra. Not only can you download the Apple TV app, it is the first non-Apple streaming box to support AirPlay and HomeKit. This means you can stream directly from your iPhone or iPad to it, just like the Apple TV. The Roku Ultra is competitively priced at around $90, but if you want something even more affordable you can get the older Roku Streaming Stick+ for under $50 … and it too comes with AirPlay support.

Of course, if you have a modern games console or a smart TV, you might not need to buy anything at all. A lot of stuff these days can show YouTube videos.

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About the Author

Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.