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Apple TV’s New Single Sign-On May Not Work With Your Pay TV Provider

Apple wants to take the hassle out of signing into and authenticating apps on its Apple TV device — but its latest push for a simpler TV experience may not actually work for everyone. That’s because Apple doesn’t yet seem to have the backing of some major pay TV operators for the new feature.

Apple introduced a new feature dubbed “single sign-on” at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco Monday. Single sign-on aims to take the pain out of authenticated TV services like Watch ABC, HBO Go and Showtime Anytime by taking away the need to sign into every single app. Instead, users will be able to sign into just one app, and automatically be authenticated for all other pay TV apps available to them.

The new feature will be available on both Apple TV as well as iPhones and iPads in the U.S. this fall — if your TV provider is on board, that is. Apple showed off Dish as a participating operator during the WWDC keynote, but didn’t mention any other supporting operators, and an Apple spokesperson didn’t respond to repeated requests from Variety on the issue.

Many pay TV operators were equally mum on the issue Monday. However, Variety has learned that not everyone may be ready to commit to Apple’s approach just yet. Comcast in particular seems to still weigh its options and is currently exploring whether to support Apple’s solution for its 22.4 million Xfinity TV subscribers.

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That’s not because the industry is opposed to single sign-ons. Many networks in particular have long pushed to make it easier to use authenticated apps. Just last week, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) and the Open Authentication Technology Committee (OATC) jointly introduced a single sign-on initiative backed by Comcast and Cox as well as NBCUniversal, Disney, Fox, AMC and others that wants to offer functionality very similar to the one introduced by Apple Monday.

However, Apple isn’t a member of either group, and seemingly built its own solution. Apple’s single sign-on may still work with some of the same building blocks already used by the industry; both TV Everywhere authentication specialist Synacor as well as Adobe, which has been building TV Everywhere solutions for some time, pledged support on Monday. However, TV providers may still need to take a closer look at the solution before they’re committing to support it.

What’s more, authentication for TV Everywhere apps has also long been held back by business decisions. Comcast in particular has been very deliberate in the past about authenticating these kinds of apps. Xfinity subscribers for example can’t authenticate the newest Starz app for Xfinity subscribers, reportedly because it combines TV Everywhere functionality with a standalone subscription service plan within the same app. And Comcast didn’t allow its subscribers to use HBO Go and Showtime Anytime on Roku devices for several years until finally changing course at the end of 2014.

That’s not to say that Apple may not be able to sway some TV operators to allow single sign-on when it eventually becomes available this fall. But it’s far from certain that the new feature will work for everyone.

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