Why can’t you use your DIRECTV-Ready TV with your home Wi-Fi?

I’m tempted to say, it’s just plain stubbornness, but there’s more to it.

There was a time I was not fond of the DIRECTV Ready TV. I actually own a 2011 model, and to be honest, it’s not a good experience. The user interface is slow and blurry and I don’t use it except for testing. I prefer using a nice, speedy HR44 Genie connected straight to the TV. However, in the four years since DIRECTV debuted its first TV software, it’s gotten so, so much better. The DIRECTV ready TVs are just as fast as any other Genie clients, and at the moment they are the only TVs that will actually show 4K content on DIRECTV. You can’t even get 4K content if you don’t have one.

Pretty much every DIRECTV Ready TV made by Samsung, Sony, and LG also has built-in Wi-Fi but the preferred installation is a coax cable with a DECA Broadband, connected to the Ethernet port. In fact most DIRECTV Ready TVs won’t let you use the built-in Wi-Fi for DIRECTV purposes. It’s frustrating especially for those of us who have put a lot of money into creating a nice strong Wi-Fi experience.

Most people, however, have a cheap router placed wherever their ISP wanted it to be placed, and that’s what DIRECTV is trying to avoid. Unlike Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services, a DIRECTV signal needs to be full-speed, full-strength, 100% of the time. Any weakness in the wireless signal is going to cause you problems on screen and they want to avoid that. So, they only let you use a wired connection, and they really really prefer that it be coax so it’s separated from the other network traffic you have in your home.

The way DIRECTV sees it, it’s a numbers game. In fact you’ll find that a lot of what DIRECTV does really boils down to making sure that as many customers as possible are as happy as possible as much of the time as possible. If you think about it, that’s not a bad thing, but it does make it a little frustrating for the .01% of power users who really could benefit from a more flexible way of connecting the equipment.

There are two things DIRECTV Ready manufacturers could do that would make things better for power users. I have no guarantee that they’ll listen but here goes:

Allow direct coax connections.
It seems like a no-brainer, connecting the coax line from the satellite system into the coax port on the TV. This would make it impossible to also use antenna TV, but those antenna enthusiasts would have the option to use the Ethernet port for networking if they wanted. The reason this isn’t done now is that DIRECTV lines can carry voltage and also because the DIRECTV Connected Home signal that carries video is much stronger than a traditional antenna signal. This is purely an engineering challenge and it would probably only cost $1-2 more to put in the components to deal with this. It would make installs easier and pay for itself eventually.

Allow autoswitching to the Wireless Video Bridge.
I know a little bit about wireless networking, and it wouldn’t be hard at all to make the TV’s built-in Wi-Fi switch wireless networks when it switched to DIRECTV Ready mode. This would allow the use of a Wireless Video Bridge for DIRECTV while the TV would run off home Wi-Fi the rest of the time. This is a more expensive route because it means the use of a Wireless Video Bridge, but it would probably cut down on installation, or DIRECTV could offer this as an extra-cost option. This really does sound like the ultimate solution to the problem, because it preserves the nice, ordered DIRECTV network for DIRECTV’s use and keeps all the other traffic out. It also doesn’t rely on the customer’s wireless equipment to keep the DIRECTV signal flowing. I would also think this would fit in with DIRECTV’s initiatives to reduce installation time and increase customer satisfaction.

Ah well, maybe in the 2016 TVs. I ought to be due for a TV upgrade around then anyway…