Why do all those apps ask you to log in with your DIRECTV (or DISH) account?

Every wondered why you have to enter your cable or satellite username before using a streaming an app? The answer’s simple:

Because they can.

So, you know what I’m talking about here. You have all these great apps on your phone, tablet or streaming box like ESPN, ABC, CNN, FXNOW, all of those that let you watch recent shows for free and even stream live. The only problem is that you need a current cable or satellite subscription or they don’t work. Sometimes they let you watch a very small number of shows but mostly they’re useless.

These apps would be a cordcutter’s best friend if only they could be used without a pay-TV subscription. And look, I know that some of you are “borrowing” someone else’s login to make these apps work for you, and I don’t want to hear about it. Here at Solid Signal we’re all about following the law. So the law is, you don’t have a pay-TV subscription, you don’t get these apps.

I get it

And yes I get it, it’s really a drag that these apps would be perfect ways to ditch the cable company… if you didn’t need the cable company to use them.

So let me explain in case you haven’t figured it out – this is all done on purpose. The content providers like Disney and Time Warner created these apps so they could build up demand for their own shows, and along the way they actually charge your cable or satellite company so they can be provided to you. The cable or satellite company is happy with this arrangement and they’re happy to pay because they know that if they didn’t, you’d go to a different provider who did pay for access to those apps. They pass the costs along to you anyway. The amounts are pretty large when you consider the millions and millions of subscribers, but it’s pennies per subscriber per app, so you barely notice it on your bill.

It’s not an evil cabal, really

Before you call this a dirty rotten conspiracy, though, consider this: the stuff on those networks costs money to make. If everyone got it for free without a lot of commercials (like over-the-air TV is today) then the networks would go out of business and the pay-TV companies would too. Then there would be any programs at all.

There would be a massive collapse and all you’d be left with was Netflix, Hulu and that crowd… and without revenues from pay-TV, studios would jack up the fees they charge to streaming companies. Before you know it you’d be paying $100 a month for Hulu and no one wants that. So yeah, it’s a little bit of a conspiracy but it’s more like a bunch of companies working together to find the least heinous way to keep things from falling apart. It’s the good kind of conspiracy, I guess.

Yeah but the double dipping

So what of those apps like NBC that still have commercials? Yeah, that’s a little smarmy I get that. It’s like how you pay for satellite TV and all the channels still have commercials. Same thing… they all claim that without the commercials that your bills (no matter if you pay them to Hulu or DIRECTV or someone else) would all be higher. I’m not sure I buy that but at least the commercial breaks are usually under a minute.

I think that most folks realize that content costs money and that you’re going to pay for it one way or the other. This is just one way to do it, I guess.

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.