4K TV Broadcasts Have Arrived. Kind of.

 4K TV Broadcasts get one step closer to reality


We’ve been talking a lot about Ultra High Definition TV, aka 4K TV, on the Abt Blog lately. The first UHDTV sets made their way into our showroom in the last few months and were met with quite a bit of excitement, with several already having been purchased. All possible superlatives have been used to describe the image quality; it’s been established that 4K video is out of this world.

But, as with any bleeding-edge technology, there’s been lots of talk about the downsides. Chief among the complaints is the glaring lack of readily available content, and how unlikely it is that we’ll see a 4K TV broadcast anytime soon. Well, it’s possible that you won’t have to wait as long as feared to watch the biggest football game in the world in glorious 4K.

The good news: Multiple providers have plans for broadcasting 4K starting this year.

The bad news: They’re all overseas.

Japan recently announced that its Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has plans for the world’s first 4K TV broadcast by July 2014, just in time to watch some of the world’s greatest football players in stunning ultra high definition. Oh, I probably should have mentioned, when I say “football,” I mean futbol. That’s right, if all goes according to plan, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be broadcast live from Brazil to Japanese viewers in full 4K.

2014 FIFA World Cup 4K TV broadcast

The world’s first 4K TV broadcast will be the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

That’s probably disappointing for American viewers, but it’s actually good news for anyone even dreaming about one day buying a 4K TV set. Japan’s previous estimates put their probable first 4K TV broadcast somewhere in 2016. Moving their goal up by two years shows a commitment to the format. This comes on the heels of French satellite TV provider Eutelsat demoing a 4K TV channel earlier in January, and Luxembourg-based telecom company SES Astra announcing plans “to make 4K widely available in 2013.”

With new advancements in entertainment technology, especially those that involve an investment in all-new hardware, the general population tends to respond with skepticism. We fear our newly-purchased gadget will be rendered obsolete shortly after its debut, as happened to HD-DVD in its battle with Blu-ray. Multiple providers jumping on the 4K broadcast train means two major things:

  1. 4K TV is a thing that’s happening. It’s not just a phase, but will continue to gain traction.
  2. Prices will start to drop.

Price of the hardware and availability of the content are the two main obstacles to widespread adoption of any new content form. It usually ends up requiring a jumpstart to either of those factors to get the ball rolling, because the nature of those two components is both symbiotic and cyclical. There’s no survival for the content without the viewing hardware, and vice versa. But as more content is produced, more people will be willing to buy the hardware, which will make broadcasters more likely to add 4K content, in turn propelling the sales of more 4K TV sets. And so on.

As widespread adoption of the new format occurs, the price for both the producers and the consumers will go down. But, the cycle needs to start somewhere. It appears that for 4K broadcasting, that start place is Japan, via Brazil. The World Cup is one of the most-watched TV events in the world. When it comes around, in a year and a half, there will be many more 4K TV sets on the market, and at more “attainable” prices.


Sony will have at least 3 different 4K TVs, at a variety of price points, available this year.

So. What exactly does this all mean for us in the USA? It’s hard to say, exactly. It’s encouraging to know that 4K TV is viable, and it would be mighty enjoyable to watch Superbowl L in 4K. But will we see Comcast, DirecTV or Dish Network trying to beat Japan to the punch? Unfortunately, it’s unlikely.

We still don’t receive true 1080p broadcasts, due mostly to bandwidth shortcomings, so barring some revolutionary new compression algorithm or a complete overhaul of telecom infrastructure, we probably won’t see 4K TV broadcasts anytime in the next few years. Most likely, providers will start by offering select content in 4K, like Pay-Per-View movies or sporting events. Perhaps we’ll be given the chance to watch the Super Bowl on a regular HD broadcast, or pay an extra $19.95 for the 4K option?

However it develops, public demand for 4K content will help drive the advancement of broadcasting technology, just like it did for faster home and mobile internet. They both faced similar infrastructure obstacles, and the resulting consumer skepticism, in their infancy. After all, ten years ago, someone was probably having this same conversation about high-speed data for smartphones. If you revisit this blog post in a decade, it’s possible you’ll be reading it on your flexible, translucent 100″ 8K display. What’s 8K, you say? Well…

Source: Broadband TV News

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