Problems signing on to premiums with AppleTV? Here’s the solution

First world problems. You’ve heard the term, right? They’re those things that get on your nerves and you know it’s not as important as people starving or war or pestilence or any of that. But, first world problems are still problems, and they’re still frustrating.

One of the most common first world problems for me is that I have trouble signing into streaming apps on my AppleTV. Some apps like HBO GO just work while others like Starz and Showtime make me log in once a month or so. And, when I do try to log in, sometimes it doesn’t work. Aren’t we better than this? Shouldn’t this problem be solved by now?

Single Sign on… isn’t

Apple rolled out a feature a few years ago known as “Single Sign On.” It’s not the only manufacturer to do this, and to be honest it should have been pretty easy to implement. You enter in your TV provider username and password in a single place and apps can use it. Somehow, this still doesn’t work the way it should.

How it should work

When starting a new streaming app, if it’s tied to a TV provider, it should ask you a simple question: whether or not it can use your TV provider’s stored credentials. I’ve found that about half the time this doesn’t work. The app freezes or it can’t sign in. You’ve probably seen the same.

I think it should also work that this sort of information should be stored in your iCloud keychain so that it can migrate from device to device. Again this is how it’s supposed to work but personally I’ve never seen it actually work properly.

Some providers are paranoid

HBO GO is one of those apps that works really well. You sign in once — it was so long ago that I don’t remember if it was with Single Sign On — and it remembers you forever. It’s really a great experience. However many other streaming providers force you to login again and again, every month or two months. I think it’s because they’re paranoid – they want to make sure that you still have the right to their service.  This wouldn’t be a huge problem if Single Sign-On actually worked. Unfortunately it doesn’t work all the time and I generally have to go through a lot of gymnastics to watch an app I haven’t used in a while.

I hate to call out one app as being the worst but… Showtime is it. It seems that no matter how often you use the app, it will occasionally stop working unless you sign back in. It’s supposed to allow you to sign in with the Showtime mobile app and once you do that it’s supposed to authenticate that to the AppleTV box. In reality I’ve found that it can take multiple tries and 10-15 minutes to get this done sometimes. It does work smoothly sometimes, which is almost worse because it makes you realize that it could work smoothly all the time.

The most reliable fix I’ve found

What works for me is to ignore Apple’s Single Sign On. Even though this means I have to go through the activation process with every single app, it seems to work more often and maybe it even lets you stay logged in longer.

To get rid of Single Sign-On, go to Settings on your AppleTV and then to TV Provider. You can turn off Single Sign-On for individual apps here. Sometimes this will help you get past a frozen app. I would just sign out and not use the feature. Sadly it’s not stable and it’s just not helpful.


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.