Ever since Fire TV software update 126.96.36.199 and Fire TV Stick software update 188.8.131.52, I’ve been hearing from readers who have been having blank screen issues with their Fire TV devices. Switching TV inputs or simply waking the Fire TV from sleep is resulting in a blank black screen being outputted by the Fire TV device. Restarting the Fire TV device seems to always resolve the issue. After a bit of troubleshooting and testing, I’ve determined the issue lies in changes to the way Fire TV devices handle HDCP, a form of digital copy protection used by most HDMI devices. I’ve found a solution to the issue, but I’ll tell you right now, you’re probably not going to like it.
High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, more commonly known as HDCP, is a form of copy protection that Fire TVs and most HDMI devices use to prevent nefarious individuals from making digital copies of protected content. The Fire TV and Fire TV Stick will check that your television is an authorized HDCP compliant device before sending the video signal over the HDMI cable.
With software updates 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 for the Stick, it appears that Fire TV devices have changed when they enable HDCP encryption of the video signal. According to my test results, Fire TV devices used to only enable HDCP when copy protected content was being played. Since the 18.104.22.168/22.214.171.124 update, and continuing with the latest 126.96.36.199/188.8.131.52 update, Fire TV devices now enable HDCP immediatly at boot up. It used to be that connecting the Fire TV to a non-HDCP compliant display resulted in normal operation until you tried playing copy protected video, which would then cause the screen to go blank. Starting with updates 184.108.40.206/220.127.116.11, if connected to a non-HDCP display, during bootup of the Fire TV you will see the white Amazon logo followed by the colorfull Fire TV logo as expected, then it immediatly goes to a blank black screen.
The change to immediately-on HDCP encryption is causing issues with select televisions and A/V receivers. The HDCP check is failing, resulting in the Fire TV thinking it’s connected to a non-HDCP compliant device which then causes the Fire TV to produce a blank output signal. The failure seems to most commonly occur when the Fire TV is waking up from sleep or when the input source on the television is changed away from the Fire TV and back again. My theory is that, since the Fire TV HDCP check now occurs so early, some televisions are not ready to communicate that they are HDCP compliant.
The issue does not seem widespread enough for me to recommend not updating to the latest software version for this reason alone. It will likely not affect you or your TV. The simplest solution to overcome the issue, if it does affect you, is to reboot the Fire TV while the TV is already on and set to the Fire TVs input. You can reboot the Fire TV by holding the SELECT button and PLAY button on your remote for 10 seconds. You can do this even if you are looking at a blank black screen.
An alternate solution to bypass this issue all together is to place an HDMI splitter in between the Fire TV and your television. I purchased and tested the Etekcity 1×2 HDMI Splitter for this article and can confirm that it fixes the issue. An HDMI splitter is meant to turn one HDMI signal into two. In order to do this, it must perform the HDCP check in place of your television. Since the splitter is always on, it is always ready to respond to an HDCP check regardless of how early the Fire TV performs it.
I know the two solutions I’ve suggested are in no way ideal. One is inconvenient, while the other requires spending money to fix a problem that shouldn’t be there in the first place. If you’re experiencing this blank screen issue, you should absolutely contact Amazon and let them know in hopes that a future software update fixes the issue.
9/4/2015 Several people have reported that Fire TV version 18.104.22.168 and Fire TV Stick version 22.214.171.124 have fixed this issue