The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple a patent that allows for a video device display that would have an onscreen menu that pops up over the display while video is playing, and lets the user to essentially change the channel.
The patent application, originally filed Oct. 12, 2006, has mock ups of screenshots with various TV programing, including CBS, ABC, FOX, and HBO. There are several screenshots depicting a Letterman segment and other popular shows. Another screenshot shows a list of recorded shows. The patent applications also has images of search and browse functions, so it seems like the new features will be fully integrated with the old system.
If Apple comes through on these designs, this could really boost the functionality -- and popularity -- of Apple TV, which has been limited by a dearth of native channels. It's greatest asset has been with connecting Apple devices for those who own many of them, but for everyone else, there has always been other choices to go to for TV programing.
See the full application below.