Why do I have to choose a profile when I stream?

OK, folks, I like streaming as much as much as anyone. But, I have a few pet peeves. I wonder if I’m the only one, or if you have the same complaints.

I’m only one guy!

It seems like it’s gotten really popular to allow multiple profiles on streaming apps. Netflix was way out ahead on this. They’ve been doing this for maybe five years. Now, pretty much every app does it. But, the way they do it varies from app to app.

Netflix may have been first, but they’re also worst. They ask you who’s watching pretty much every time. I only have one profile and at least right now, no one is coming over to the house. Why, Netflix, why? It’s just a tiny little annoyance but having to choose that solitary profile makes no sense. I mean, can’t the app see that there’s only one profile and just choose it?

HBO Max and Prime Video have followed Netflix’s lead here. The Prime Video app has gotten better over time, although it still has some weird flaws. For example, it has separate entries for 4K programs and HD programs. If you want the 4K, you have to choose it. But the worst at the moment is that Prime Video has added profiles, just like Netflix. And really, it’s just as annoying to have to click through that choice every. single. time.  HBO Max does the same thing, although it sometimes remembers who I am. What’s weird is it only really asks me who’s watching every second or third time. I guess I should be glad for the break, but I’m not.

Of all the major apps, surprisingly it’s Hulu who does it the best. Hulu had the worst streaming box app for YEARS. But, once you’re signed into a profile, you stayed signed in unless you changed profiles. They’ve recently updated their app, too, and it’s finally a lot more usable.

Look, I get why they do this.

All of these apps want to deliver a “curated” experience. They want to show you programs that you’ll like, out of a huge selection. Ad-supported apps want to know who you are, so they can show you the right ads. And these companies want to know what programs appeal to what people, so they know what programs to buy the next time.

I totally get that. I do.

All I’m asking here is that if there’s only one profile loaded, don’t ask me every time who I am? It’s the kind of pebble-in-my-shoe annoyance that gets seriously annoying after time.

And while I’m at it, stop signing me out.

This one’s a little more complex. I’ve found that most streaming apps that authenticate to pay-TV providers sign you out after a few weeks. I’m talking about HBO Max, Starz, Showtime, that sort of thing. You have to sign back in, and for some reason the single-sign-on doesn’t work perfectly all the time. You have to re-activate, or fill out the email and password.

Again I understand why this is. It’s too much work for these providers to check whether or not you’re still subscribed to that pay-TV service. Certainly they don’t want you sharing that password with everyone and their mother. But there has to be a better way to deal with this.

Maybe the streaming box makers can do a better job managing single-sign-on. If the apps sign out, the box itself can auto-sign-in with the saved username and password. That would only take a second.

As for location, they can check to see if you’re at the address listed on your bill. You’d have to opt into this, but I’d have no problem with it. If you’re not, you get signed out every two weeks. That’s fair.

For mobile devices, they could do the same thing, but just check your billing address on file with the cell company. If it’s the same as either your location or the billing address on your pay-TV account, everything’s fine.

Yeah I get it there are privacy concerns.

Obviously the more personal information you give these apps, the worse off you are. But I think it’s foolish to think they don’t have a lot of this info anyway and at least you’d be opting into it. Or opting out, if it’s your thing. That’s really what this is about… what your thing is. If you want to have ten profiles, good on you. If you want to mask your location all the time, go for it. I just want to watch me a little HBO without being reminded that I’m the only one here. Is that so much to ask?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.