Will a DIRECTV remote control your cable box?

We’ve been running a lot of sales lately on our DIRECTV-branded universal remotes. The most common question we have is, “will this work with my cable box?” Unfortunately in most cases the answer is no. The DIRECTV remotes are designed to work with thousands of televisions and audio/video receivers, but the folks at AT&T assume that you actually are using their service, not their competitors.

What’s the deal?

I think the Genie Remote, pictured at the top of this article, is one of the best universal remotes for any price. At least, when it’s used with DIRECTV satellite service. For a very reasonable price, you get an ergonomically-designed remote that works in RF mode to control your satellite equipment. It can also power on connected equipment if you have HDMI-CEC compliant devices. You can control the TV’s input and the volume from the TV or A/V receiver. But, that’s about it.

This remote just isn’t designed to work with competitor’s devices. I have a feeling that AT&T doesn’t make a lot of profit on these devices. I mean, how could they at the price we charge? They probably sell them near cost just so everyone feels like they have a good remote in their hands. After all this is the way you interact with your TV service. It should always feel good and work well. Not only that, since AT&T equipment really doesn’t have front panel buttons, you absolutely need the remote.

What about the older remote?

If you have one of these older-style remotes, you know that it has more flexibility than the Genie remote. You can use it to control three other devices besides the DIRECTV box. This can include audio/video receivers, DVD or Blu-ray disc players, even VCRs. Streaming boxes aren’t included… when this remote was popular those devices had barely been invented. We still sell this remote at Solid Signal, and it will control any DIRECTV receiver, client, or DVR made since 2003 in infrared mode. It will even control a DIRECTV TiVo, if you still can’t loosen your clutch on that old technology.

But, you still can’t control cable boxes. Once again this just isn’t something the remote was designed for. Every button on that remote  ties to DIRECTV equipment. It’s just not supposed to control cable boxes.

There are a few exceptions to the rules, and they can be found by searching through the code base in the manual. For the most part, though, this remote isn’t going to help you a lot if you have another cable TV provider. If you use an antenna, however, it should work just fine. Just program this remote to control you TV using the guide linked above. Then when you slide the slider over to TV, you can use the channel up/down buttons as well as the number pad to control the TV tuner.

Last word…

This isn’t likely to change. AT&T equipment is designed to work with AT&T equipment. For the moment at least, AT&T doesn’t seem to want to get into producing general-purpose home theater accessories. Unless they change their mind, you’ll have to content yourself with one of the many universal remotes available at Solid Signal.

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.