NICE AND EASY: Play video from a flash drive using DIRECTV’s USB port?

Sorry to disappoint… but the USB ports on a DIRECTV receiver won’t let you play videos. In fact, they’re not good for much of anything. Back in the early days, you could use it to power an over the air tuner. It can still be used to power a network adapter, if your receiver is old enough to need one. In the past I’ve said you could charge your phone with it, but that turned out to be good advice. Most DIRECTV receivers only put out 250mA over the USB port, making charging a slow affair.

Well why is that port even there then?

The best answer that’s been given for why DIRECTV receivers have USB ports is that they’re used during the pre-release testing process and then left there because the hardware would need to be recertified if it changed. So they’re really sort of leftover bits kind of like your appendix. Definitely not something you’d ever use for any reason like streaming.

I’ll admit that they absolutely could cover the USB port with a plastic plug like they have done with the Ethernet ports on their boxes for a while. It would at least stop people from trying to put stuff in there. Maybe they figure it’s not worth it. Maybe the next generation of boxes, whenever they arrive, will have this situation under control.

Could you use it for video playback?

Yes, technically you could. But, there are two things that mean it will probably never happen.

First, folks at AT&T’s Engineering lab would have to code it in. Remember that DIRECTV boxes aren’t like Windows PCs where there’s a bunch of apps already out there. Even though they run on the popular operating system Linux, they are so customized that most Linux apps won’t run on a DIRECTV box. That’s kind of the point.

Second, it would take a completely different philosophy from the management team. Since the mid-2000s there has been a pretty consistent directive about these receivers. They are closed systems. The only input comes from the remote. That way there’s no way you could hack one.

After all, if you did hack one, you could potentially break the unbreakable encryption and everyone could get free satellite TV. That’s what this is all about. It’s about making sure that you can’t hack the thing. That’s why you can’t even connect a keyboard to your receiver. I suppose I understand the business motivation, but it’s a shame they can’t be a little more reasonable about it.

Will this change?

It’s unlikely. If you want a bit more flexibility, you have the AT&T TV service and its slightly more flexible box. That box lets you have apps and even use its USB port to play videos. It’s not likely that the DIRECTV satellite service will ever have this capability.

There was a time that DIRECTV tried its hand at letting you stream from network sources, but the truth is that it never worked very well, and at this point pretty much any streaming device no matter how old is going to do a better job. As far as I know that capability has been gone from DIRECTV equipment for a long time; I don’t know anyone who missed it when it finally disappeared.

In the meantime, if you want to upgrade your DIRECTV system or even move over to AT&T TV so you can play videos, call us at 888-233-7563 and we’ll take care of you!

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.