Question: When we connect our TiVo to the TV with an HDMI cable we get an "HDMI not permitted" error on our TV's screen. We don't get that with component video. What is the problem?
Answer: The issue is collateral damage of DRM, or digital rights management. DRM technologies aim to prevent unauthorized sharing of content by ensuring that a playback device will only present a movie, a song or some other copyrighted content over a digitally-locked connection.
Most of the time, DRM works invisibly on consumer hardware. (On computers, however, it prevents such routine, legal options as backing up a DVD.) We plug digital video recorders, DVD players, Blu-ray players, soundbars and other gadgets into TVs with HDMI cables and never have to think about the "handshaking" process by which these devices validate each other.
In this case, however, something went wrong. A roughly six-year-old Samsung LCD at some point lost its handshaking skills, resulting in a TiVo HD DVR reporting that error when connected over HDMI. A Sony Blu-ray player was less informative; after briefly showing its startup-screen graphic, the TV's screen only displayed a blank expanse of green.
The usual troubleshooting steps — trying different HDMI cables, trying different HDMI inputs on the TV, reversing the order of the cables — didn't work out. Samsung tech support suggested trying a local repair shop, which said it would charge $20 for an estimate but predicted that the fix would involve replacing a $160 circuit board, with labor costs of $225.
Ethan Rasiel, a Samsung spokesman, offered a few other troubleshooting suggestions (they didn't pan out), noted that the set was long out of warranty and said the company wasn't aware of any cause for this problem outside of normal wear on the set. I could only find two other reports of this problem on this model, one on its site and another on a CNet forum.
For now, the owner of this TV is using arrays of component-video and analog-audio cables to connect the TiVo and the Blu-ray player. Each trio of component cables provides the same high-definition video as HDMI on this set but doesn't enforce any DRM rules. Unfortunately, with only one bank of component inputs on the back of the set, he has to switch cables to alternate from TiVo viewing to Blu-ray playback.
Picking up a component-video input-switching box, an under-$50 item at many stores, may be the cheapest fix for this solution. I wouldn't dump $400 on a six-year-old set, not when a replacement with better picture quality and a variety of apps to connect to sites like Netflix and Amazon would cost little more.
Tip: Control your TV with your smartphone or tablet
A connected television or Blu-ray player may bring an added benefit besides easy access to on-demand video from Amazon and Web radio from Pandora; you may be able to replace its remote control with an app on your phone or tablet.