How to make the most of Apple TV’s picture-in-picture

Last week, Apple TV picked up a feature that gives it a big advantage over other streaming boxes—at least in theory.

I’m talking about picture-in-picture mode, which in tvOS 14 allows video to play in a miniature window while another video plays in the background, either from the same app or a separate one. Picture-in-picture is a staple of some traditional TV services—most notably Dish Network’s satellite service—and I’ve heard from some folks who refuse to cut the cord without an equivalent on streaming devices.

But as of this week, picture-in-picture is unavailable in popular apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Sling TV, Peacock, and MLB TV. I asked representatives for these streaming services and several others about their picture-in-picture plans, and none would commit to a timeline for supporting it. The only app I’ve found that supports the feature is Apple’s own TV app, which added it last year as part of tvOS 13.

Fortunately, there is a workaround that lets picture-in-picture mode work with lots of apps today, but you’ll need an iPhone or an iPad to take advantage of it.

How Apple TV picture-in-picture works

To see how picture-in-picture mode is supposed to work, you can try it out with any video that plays directly in the Apple TV app. That can include movies and shows from Apple TV+ or subscriptions from Apple TV channels.

Once a video is playing, start picture-in-picture mode by tapping on your remote’s touchpad. You should see a little icon with two rectangles right above the video progress bar.

appletvpipicon Jared Newman / IDG

Click the icon to start picture-in-picture mode on Apple TV.

Scroll up and click the icon, and the video will shrink down to a small playback window in the corner of the screen. You can now navigate around the Apple TV interface and find something else to watch at the same time.

To modify the picture-in-picture window, press the remote’s Home button. You’ll see three icons in the small window: One to expand the window, one to close it, and one to move it to another corner of the screen. Audio will also play from the small window while these controls are open; just press the menu button to close the controls and switch audio sources.