DirecTV Customers With Older HDTVs May Have Trouble Watching HBO

Even if your older HDTV has an HDMI port, you may not be able to connect your DirecTV receiver to your TV — at least not if you want to watch HBO. recently posted about receiving complaints from some DirecTV customers who suddenly found out — without warning or explanation — that they can’t watch HBO if their receiver is connected to the TV via an HDMI cable.

Why not?

Glad you asked. Seems like some older HDTVs do not have High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), which as the name implies, is intended to prevent copying of content transmitted over a connection like HDMI or DVI. Without HDCP on their TV sets, DirecTV customers get something like the image shown in the above photograph.

ZatzNotFunny confirmed this HDCP requirement with DirecTV, which suggested that affected customers connect their receivers using component cables. These will allow the HBO content to be shown, though not at the same definition as the HDMI cable.

“I’d say this is anti-consumer and a misguided approach to reducing piracy,” writes Dave Zats, “as it’s much easier to archive video traveling via an analog component connection.”

And HDCP is certainly not pirate-proof, as is evident by the fact that you can easily find HD versions of the most recent Game of Thrones episodes available via BitTorrent.

So once again, broadcasters and carriers are inconveniencing customers in the name of copy protection that doesn’t do anything to stop people copying protected material.

DirecTV Blocks HBO Over HDMI (without HDCP) []

Thanks to Mark for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. scoutermac says:

    Step 1. Turn TV and reciever off and unplug them. Wait one hour then re-connect. and power tv on first. Test.

    If this does not resolve the issue

    Step 2. Check tv manufacturer for firmware updates.

    If this does not resolve the issue

    Step 3. Connect receiver to TV via component cables.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      Step 0.5. Tell DirecTV to kiss your ass and torrent all HBO shows.

      • scoutermac says:

        My guess would be this is not a Directv policy but rather an HBO policy. From what I can find online looks like Comcast seems to be having the same issue.

        • mr cloudy says:

          I can confirm that. I record 1080i stuff through my STB’s component connection, and when my TV was connected through the HDMI port, it would show a message (in my recordings) whenever my TV was off and not handshaking the HDCP. It only happened on certain channels.

      • MattAlbie says:

        I literally just got a “We know you’re downloading HBO shows, knock it off, dummy” e-mail from my ISP a week or so ago. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that. Evidently HBO takes that stuff seriously.

      • Corinthos says:

        Use the money you were using for hbo towards newgroups. Won’t get any notifactions for that.

  2. HomerSimpson says:

    Um, aren’t component cables the same as HDMI cables (in terms of resolution), just don’t have audio. Meaning OH NOES TWO MORE WIRES!!!!!!

    • mr cloudy says:

      No. It’s like VGA/DVI-I vs DVI-D. One will have ghosting and not be as crisp…

      • mr cloudy says:

        Whoops, make that VGA/DVI-A vs DVI-D. Basically, analog signal is inferior to the digital signal.

    • scoutermac says:

      You are correct. Component cables are analog not digital though. So you might notice some picture quality differences but the resolution should be the same.

      • kc2idf says:

        Generally, Component does not support 1080p. That said, I can’t think of any TV that supports 1080p that doesn’t also have HDCP, so this is a moot point.

        If the display were a CRT, component could potentially produce softer-edged pixels than HDMI. This is also irrelevant, because (a) few remaining TVs are CRT (though mine is) and (b) such TVs don’t produce hard-edged pixels anyway.

        If the display is an LCD or plasma, or a DLP projector, the pixels will retain their hard edges, provided you take a moment and push the auto-adjust button and allow the device to figure out where the pixel edges are and align them with its physical pixel edges.

        Ultimately, as long as you connect the wires in the right order, and they are in good condition, you shouldn’t notice a damned thing. If you do, then it’s in your head and you should just upgrade your TV.

      • necrosis says:

        If you notice the difference between HDMI and component cables you must be some sort of god.

        • Velvet Jones says:

          You will on a big screen. On my 109″ 1080p projector the differences is quite noticeable. The component picture is very soft, with a slight fringe around detailed objects. On a small set the difference is much less noticeable.

        • who? says:

          On a 40″ tv, you won’t notice a difference. Bigger than 40″, you might. Way bigger than 40″, you will definitely notice the difference.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      In theory, but in practice most devices don’t support the same resolution on component as they do with HDMI. So while you can get 1080p with HDMI with a given set of equipment, you might get only 720 or even less with component. As a rule they are not interchangeable in that way.

      …if they were, what point would there be to HDCP – just use component instead and avoid the issue.

    • pot_roast says:

      No, they aren’t, and a lot of devices also fail to work because of the same asinine copyright restrictions. Using component video is part of the “analog hole”

      More about how stupid this is:

      This is HBO shanking customers, case closed. It’s more restrictive copyright trash shoved down the throats of law abiding consumers, end of story, period, full f–king stop.

      Stop supporting this kind of anti-consumer garbage. Just stop it.

  3. scottd34 says:

    Sounds like HBO wants people to torrent their content with these ridiculous restrictions. Not many people are going to upgrade their TV to watch one channel and most aren’t going to know or bother to change out their cabling.

  4. nickmoss says:

    You may even get a better picture using componant video. While it is analog rathar than digital, componant video separates the color signals (R,G,B) and sends them over three cable connections. The HDMI encodes the color into the digital signal.

    There are websites (Google HDMI versus componant) galore arguing that one transmission medium is better than the other, but it really comes down to the individual user’s preference.

    Both media transmit 1080P without a problem.

    • kc2idf says:

      Component does not separate R,G,B. The Green wire contains a black-and-white signal; the blue wire carries a colour overlay in the blue/yellow domain; the red wire carries a colour overlay in the red/cyan domain. This is the same encoding used in HDMI. For that matter, it is the same encoding already used in MPEG and AVC, one of which will have been used to get the signal to your receiver in the first place.

      I’m not sure about TVs supporting 1080p delivered by component, but it is true that there is nothing about component itself that makes 1080p infeasible.

      Honestly, I think there is no relevant difference. Either format will deliver a satisfactory HD image if the equipment will just support it.

      • Not Given says:

        I’ve got my DVD player hooked to the component, vcr hooked to the compsite, all I have left is 2 HDMIs.

  5. Mike says:

    Actually, I’m trying to understand who this really affects other than the unfortunate customer without HDCP. Anyone savvy enough to post a torrent already knows how to get around this restriction. I’m not sure about the implication to DVRs. This really seems like it’s counter productive for HBO. It doesn’t affect the cheaters, but it drives paying customers away.

    • scoutermac says:

      We understand this.. but companies like HBO do not.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Such is the effect of all DRM.

      Number of pirates stopped by DRM: 0

      Number of honest customers driven away by DRM: Lots

      Cost to producers of putting DRM on their products: High

      …so producers spend lots of money to not stop piracy but rather to stop people from paying for their products. Brilliant!

      • regis-s says:

        So what are companies like HBO supposed to do? Just put their content out there unprotected and hope people will pay for it out of the goodnes of their hearts?

        I’m pretty sure if companies removed all DRM people still wouldn’t pay for content. They’d use the fact it isn’t locked down as an indication companies don’t expect it to be paid for.

        • WalterSinister2 says:

          That’s what they are doing now, they are just paying through the nose for something that doesn’t protect them and does annoy paying customers.

          It’s like my store doesn’t have a back wall, and it is for some reason physically impossible for me to put one in, and burglars keep getting in that way, so I put ever bigger, more elaborate, and more expensive locks on the front door, that take more time for me to unlock when I have legitimate visitors, so they get annoyed at the wait and go away.

          Then when someone pointed out that this was a waste of my time and money and actually cost me customers, I say “well, what should I do, just hope people pay out of the goodness of their hearts”?

          People who get HBO already know they have to pay for it. You need a cable box to decode it in the first place, or you can’t see it at all. All the HDCP does is add an extra layer of annoyance that does nothing to stop pirates because they know how to circumvent it, but does annoy legitimate customers.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          The would lose less money by not paying for the cost of putting the DRM on their content, and not annoying consumers to the point where they just drop HBO.

          Pirates will pirate it anyway. There is no upside to DRM…for anyone. Any amount of money spent on DRM is money thrown away.

  6. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    OMG, HBO and DirecTV have finally found a way to close the analog hole!

    Oh, wait, they didn’t….they’re just pissing off their customers.

  7. mingtae says:

    This is not limited to DirecTV. Happens with certain brands/models of HDTVs and Comcast service. The message itself comes from the TV so following the steps outlined by “scoutermac” is the correct and only method to fix it.

  8. LabanDenter says:

    Like any of you torrent supports actually pay for HBO.

  9. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    HDCP, like all forms of DRM, does nothing to stop piracy and does lots to punish honest consumers. There’s no possible argument for allowing such DRM to remain legal. Outlaw it.

    • vastrightwing says:

      Here’s another form of DRM. My wife likes to watch programming from her country and our satellite stopped working last night. I go to the show’s website to watch it online… guess what? Sorry, we don’t have the rights to allow you to stream it in your country. I get this cool idea to find an open proxy in the said country and BINGO! No more problem. Licensing rules are outdated and frustrate regular consumers. There are always options to get around the issue. But why annoy your customers in the first place? I mean, why does it matter where your customer lives?

  10. CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

    HDCP stippers for the win.
    I dont know why they mess with DRM when it just forces people to remove it/bypass it.

  11. elangomatt says:

    I am not saying what DirecTV is doing is OK, but I am curious about these TVs without HDCP. The $100 computer monitor I bought a couple of years ago even has HDCP. I wonder how many of these TVs without HDCP HDMI ports were budget TVs even when they were new and the manufacturer just wanted to put out a ultra cheap HDTV even if didn’t have all the features that were probably needed. If that is the case, I guess you got what you paid for then.

    • CommonSense(‡≤†_‡≤†) says:

      DRM is not a feature anyone pays for.

    • Coyote says:

      Back when HDCP was a new thing, “budget” TVs didn’t have DVI/HDMI, let alone HDCP. No, HDCP issues are a classic case of early adopters paying a lot of money and getting burned.

      • elangomatt says:

        Well if they didn’t have HDMI then they would have this particular problem in the first place.

  12. CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

    HDCP stippers for the win.
    I dont know why they mess with DRM when it just forces people to remove it/bypass it.

  13. Coyote says:

    If you are having HDCP issues, try a different HDMI cable before you switch to component or blame the TV or STB. A flaky HDMI cable that occasionally loses a few bits might not affect an unprotected signal, but could prevent HDCP handshaking.

  14. hansolo247 says:

    Think this article displays a lot of tech ignorance.

    HDCP is a straight-up requirement of HDMI. Not so with DVI (the same signal), but even my TV from 2002 had DVI with HDCP.

    HDCP is flaky, though. Implementations of it are just straight-up broken.

    Ask any pirate, any REAL pirate, and they will tell you breaking HDMI to copy is not the way to do it. Why do that when you can just copy the source file which is a lot smaller?

  15. kathygnome says:

    HDMI is prone to issues. We had to switch to component because our Comcast DVR can’t properly negotiate with our receiver and resets the video to 720p and 4:3 stretched (amazing everyone in SD is short and fat!).

  16. balderdashed says:

    I actually had the same problem connecting my Apple TV via HDMI to an older HDTV (made by Olevia) that did not have digital content protection. Content I’d legitimately purchased via ITunes wouldn’t play. I’d get rid of the set, but it still works just fine otherwise.

  17. SeattleSeven says:

    If you download programs from the internet for free instead of paying for them, they work just fine with none of these restrictions.

    But that is why I always pay for them, I like these extra challenges.

  18. Portlandia says:

    HBO is trying to make itself even more irrelevant. It’s bad enough that when I had their service free for a year they would have perhaps one new movie a month that they would PLAY TO DEATH…oh look.. that Adam Sandler movie is on for the 12th time today….

    They are so not worth the money

    • kathygnome says:

      And with DirecTV they’ve chosen to add more and more versions of the pay channels while letting basic channels remain without an HD version.

  19. FLConsumer says:

    Can someone show me a documented instance of bootlegging via HDMI/DVI? Seriously?

    Way to go HBO! Piss off your customer base even more. If I subscribed to HBO, I’d cancel over this. But I don’t. And don’t subscribe to DirecTV/Comcrap/etc.

  20. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I stopped getting HBO a long long time ago. I got really sick of watching a movie and listening to music over the credits, then being forced to hear an announcement about what’s coming up next, followed directly by an announcement about what’s coming up next. I felt like I was paying to watch movies UNINTERRUPTED and that meant all the way through.

    Nice to see they haven’t gotten any smarter, and I made the right decision.

  21. axiomatic says:

    HDMI as a spec is still broken. Try to get your display to “sleep” while using an hdmi cable only. You can’t. Yet VGA / DVI / DVI-D / Display port all do it just fine, even with HDCP enabled.

    HDMI is a busted and expensive spec.

    STOP SUPPORTING IT! Buy Displayport. Hell buy anything from VESA, just avoid HDMI.

  22. soj4life says:

    There is really no difference in quality when you have your tv connected to a set top box, it is just easier to have 1 cable instead of 5.

  23. dwfmba says:

    These will allow the HBO content to be shown, though not at the same definition as the HDMI cable.

    not true in most cases, HD content can be sent over a component link in the same resolution, its just not as neat if a connection requiring at least 4 cables (separate digital audio) or 5 cables (separate RCA “stereo”audio)

    having said that, this requirement is ridiculous

  24. skapig says:

    Surprising that they are only just now enforcing this. Component cables should work, provided the box isn’t designed to block that output or downscale for protected content.