Apple TV display goes black randomly

Hi all - I’m using a 4k Apple TV with a Denon receiver and a Sony smart TV. The display randomly goes black and stops playback. It may start again if I hit play on the Apple TV remote or phone. Other times it’s necessary to turn off the Apple TV and all connected devices using the remote, or turn the receiver and TV off with their remotes.

We only use the Apple TV, not the Smart TV apps or any other input to the reciever.

I’d appreciate hearing about any similar experiences or thoughts about how to diagnose and fix.

Lots of potential things going wrong in this chain. Does your TV have energy saver settings on? It is a new model? An old model? Does this happen with anything else you have plugged in to the TV? Let me list a few things you could check on. I own an ATV 4K, a Sony A80J, and one of the 8K Denons with HDMI 2.1, so I may know a little bit about your setup.

  1. Is the ATV connected to your receiver, then the TV? If so, are both cables 4K and HDCP-compatible? (Is your receiver?)
  2. Is it possible to plug the receiver/Apple TV into a different HDMI port on the TV? Is it possible to plug the ATV into a different HDMI port on your receiver?
  3. Do the receiver and TV both support ARC or e-ARC? If so, have you tried plugging the Apple TV into the television directly, and using e-arc for audio? (This may cause other problems, because Sony’s TVs seem to forget that you have e-ARC enabled. If that becomes the case, the easy (but annoying) fix is to wade into the Sony’s audio output settings, then disable and re-enable e-ARC. It’s annoying but necessary if your setup relies on Atmos or Blu-ray-quality audio. Don’t worry about any of that for now if this all sounds odd. Just try the e-ARC solution if you can.)
  4. Did you try unplugging your ATV and plugging it back in? I know, I know, but when I called Apple about issues I had with Dolby Vision on the ATV, they asked me to do this first.
  5. If the HDMI cables are good and e-ARC doesn’t fix it, an Apple support person would tell you to reset your ATV as though it were brand new. This is another annoyance, but it did help in my case.

You will note that basically all these problems have their roots in an HDMI spec somewhere. Owning a 4K TV and a 4K receiver has made me hate HDMI with a burning passion. USB-C wishes it were as bad as that terrible, awful mess. In the past few years, almost every A/V problem I’ve had to fix involving TVs or projectors has had its root cause in an HDMI issue, typically involving handshake or whatever DRM garbage is happening at a cable level. It’s awful, and I honestly wish this industry would find a different, better, more consistent cable type. Even USB-C would be a genuine improvement.

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Thanks! That’s a lot of suggestions to work on, I’ll report back as I work through the list. I know I didn’t provide a lot of detail. Easy answer to 4 - yes! countless times, it didn’t help.

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Check HDMI-CEC settings. Until the last year or so, compatibility with the actual standard was so problematic the basic troubleshooting rule was turn off HDMI-CEC everywhere and work backwards from there.

HDMI-CEC is the handshaking portion of HDMI. It’s what lets you (in theory) use a single remote such as the AppleTV remote and control the volume via another device (your Denon receiver).

If you disable HDMI-CEC, many problems often go away. If you only need to control the volume of the Denon, you can still use the “auto IR” or the “learn IR” feature of AppleTV to have one ring to rule to them all, er… I mean one remote. :wink:

With AppleTV, also look at whether you “match source” set or using fixed resolution settings.

DolbyVision (does your Sony TV support that, I don’t have the specs handy) also can be problematic as most receivers can’t overlay their menu/on-screen volume indicators if the signal path is DolbyVision.

I would say avoid connecting AppleTV to the Sony and then using ARC or eARC to route audio back to the Denon. ARC or eARC should be avoided like the plague unless you absolutely have to use it. Compatibility problems with ARC or eARC make dealing with HDMI-CEC, in comparison, a pleasure.

Based on reality of fixing client problems; not based on the theory of why all these features are so good and “ideal” settings. YMMV.

Lastly, consider rebooting your AppleTV once a day, or at least once a week. Unlike most other Apple devices, the ATV is known to be problematic and mysteriously a lot of issues go away if you do prophylactic reboots frequently.


This is all good advice, but FWIW, on my particular Sony model (last year’s), e-ARC works 10x better than HDMI-CEC.

Similarly, if the OP has a Sony OLED in particular, it would be worth trying to turn Dolby Vision off. DV on Sony TVs is hilariously broken; the curve is implemented so badly that you are guaranteed black crush and a loss of shadow detail in nearly any DV viewing environment or setting.

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I would agree that for remote control, e-ARC is much better than HDMI-CEC. Sonos soundbars, especially, seem to be almost plug-and-play with eARC.

But sound routing over ARC/e-ARC, typically from smartv built-in streaming apps or streaming boxes like AppleTV connected into the TV, can be iffy. Worse than either working or not, I’ve seen a lot of TV’s that will simply drop audio routing randomly or the next time the TV is turned on.

Digging through the TV menu to reset the audio output or toggle it (to “force” a reset) isn’t family/guest/normal person friendly.

Makes you cringe, but often have to set sound routing to use TOSLINK/optical out instead of ARC or eARC. For smaller media room or family room setups the loss of higher-quality audio is worthwhile for a stable setup.

TL;DR if you have stability or compatibility problems with ARC/eARC sound routing, consider dropping down to using TOSLINK optical instead. It’s an older, but still widely supported port that works with a lot less hassle, often with little degradation in actual sound experience.

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This is all fair. It’s super annoying to do the reset thing. I agree generally that it’s not good. But it is leagues ahead of my Sony’s CEC implementation, which is bad at best and “ugh why I just wanted to watch a movie tonight; where is the beer?” at worst.

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