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Apple TV gains 'zero sign-on' to ease subscription TV app access

At WWDC 2018, Apple announced TVOS 12 enhancements to its streaming box, including live sports in the TV app and a new screen saver with satellite imagery.

Apple TV 4K
Sarah Tew/CNET

This story is part of WWDC 2022, CNET's complete coverage from and about Apple's annual developers conference.

Sick of signing into TV apps all the time? There's an Apple TV for that.

The company's streaming video box, CNET's favorite for Apple fans and big spenders, will roll out a new feature called "zero sign-on" as part of the update to TVOS 12, coming this fall.

Apple says the feature will allow a subscriber to a cable service to immediately unlock its associated apps, without having to sign in to the individual apps at all.

Many pay TV (cable, satellite and live TV streaming) subscriptions include access to numerous channel-specific streaming apps as well, but to gain access you need your pay TV credentials -- the username and password for your TV provider. Let's say your subscription to Charter Spectrum cable includes ESPN, Nick Jr. and a bunch of other channels. Previously you would have to sign in with your cable service log-in to gain access to the apps for ESPN, Nick Jr. and the rest on Apple TV. 

Now playing: Watch this: Dolby Atmos comes to Apple TV 4K

With zero sign-on, Apple says no sign-on credentials are needed at all. Instead, the system detects the user's broadband connection and signs into all the apps their subscription supports, automatically.

As with Apple's current single sign-on (SSO) feature, however, the cable provider will need to participate. One notable absentee from Apple's current list of SSO supported providers is Comcast, the largest cable operator in the US. The only provider Apple has announced for zero sign-on so far is Charter Spectrum, but it says more will be added in the future. 

Also, the feature doesn't apply to other types of sign-ons, such as those required for apps independent of cable services, like Netflix, Amazon or YouTube.


In addition to zero sign-on, Apple announced a few other additions coming soon to TVOS 12.

  • Dolby Atmos audio for Apple TV 4K
  • A new Charter Spectrum app
  • Charter Spectrum bundling Apple TVs with cable subscriptions
  • The TV app will have a section for live sports
  • A new screensaver with satellite views
  • Users with iOS 12 can securely autofill passwords from iPhone and iPad
  • The Apple TV remote will appear in Control Center on iPhone or iPads automatically
  • Systems like Control4, Crestron and Savant can be used to control the Apple TV, including using Siri for voice search and control

The Apple TV's screensaver will get satellite imagery in TVOS 12.

Now playing: Watch this: Dolby Atmos comes to Apple TV 4K

iOS 12: Siri shortcuts, group FaceTime and "Memoji" -- Animoji of you.

WWDC 2018: Everything Apple just announced.