Direct TV Starts 4K Broadcasts This Year

4K – Direct TV has announced that they are planning on starting 4K or UltraHD TV broadcasts this year. Via Satellite, a publication focusing completely on the satellite broadcast sector, interviewed Michael White, chairman, president and CEO of Direct TV about the support of UltraHD TV. Direct TV stated that they are looking into supporting UltraHD transmissions in 2014.

As this could be interpreted as a sign for the further take-off of UltraHD TV mania, Direct TV dashed those hopes in the following parts of the interview. Michael White stated that DirecTV is critical of the 4K success and the consequent demand for 4K content. While the short term demand may not be substantial based on the relatively small footprint of 4K TV sets in the home, this footprint is growing. According to Strategy Analytics, the market share of UltraHD TVs will grow from 4% today to over 40% by 2020. Direct TV wants to secure their leadership position by offering UltraHD transmissions as early as possible.

In the beginning DirecTV’s  UltraHD content will likely focus on events rather than regular content. The main support of 4K content transmissions will start later in 2015 with a new satellite to be launched in the first half of the year.

The interesting part of the interview was the critical stance of Direct TV against the significance of the 4K technology for the broadcast industry. The basis for this conservative approach is the 3D disappointment. Of course, this is based on the view of UltraHD being another technology to drive TV sales, rather than a technology enhancement. Strategy Analytics argues that 4K is the logical progression of HD and therefore will eventually become the standard of home entertainment in coming years. The remaining question is when.

While the argument of technology progression is certainly a good one, 4K content distribution is still up in the air.  One of the arguments being made by many analysts is that UltraHD TV sets make the most sense for 50″ and larger TVs. This would suggest that 4K is a technology for larger TVs, a sentiment that I do not share. UltraHD is definitely coming. We are already talking 4K in tablets and possibly smartphone, so why would anyone buy a 48″ FHD TV?

In my opinion, a larger TV is sold at a higher price and whoever spends more money wants the best technology for various reasons. While the higher resolution makes more sense for larger TVs, this will not be the main argument to buy an UltraHD TV.

As far as content is concerned, upscaling will provide most of the content to the 4k viewer in the same way that upscaling was the main content source for FHD sets. There are already upscaling Blu-ray players available that not only upconvert FHD content, but also provide a 3D version for the many 3D TVs that are sold today (for example from Sony for $150). The main difference between 3D and 4K viewing is that 3D requires special glasses, while 4K is here for everyone to see. This is a big advantage which will drive 4K adoption as soon as the prices become a more manageable multiple of an FHD TV set with the same functionality.  – Norbert Hildebrand