AT&T & Dish Mix 4K Into Olympics Coverage
UPDATED: Score one for satellite TV... and cable giant Comcast.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), through its DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) satellite subsidiary, Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) have now confirmed that they will all make Ultra HD coverage of select events from the Olympics available to their subscribers. AT&T was first to announce the news, noting that 4K UHD footage will be available to customers with a compatible Genie HD DVR and either a DirecTV 4K Ready TV, or a 4K TV set linked to a 4K Genie Mini set-top.
Dish then told Light Reading that it will also deliver 4K coverage of the Olympics on its linear channel 146 and through its on-demand library. Dish customers will need a Hopper 3 or 4K Joey set-top to access the 4K UHD content.
And finally, Comcast also shared with Light Reading its plan to deliver 4K Olympics footage via its Xfinity UHD app on Samsung and LG 4K TVs.*
NBCUniversal LLC decided very late in the game to make 4K part of its video strategy for the Olympics. While initially there were no plans to offer 4K footage in the US, the broadcaster announced in late May that it would down-convert an 8K feed provided by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) and NHK out of Japan to make a 4K version available to US operators. 4K content will include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, scenes from Rio, and select events in swimming, track and field, basketball, the men's soccer final and judo. The UHD coverage will largely be available on a one-day delay, but DirecTV has said it will deliver the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in 4K after a delay of only two and a half hours.
Both AT&T/DirecTV and Dish are complementing their 4K content with additional mosaic viewing options. AT&T U-verse and Dish subscribers will be able to view four channels of Olympics footage at once, while DirecTV customers will able to view up to eight channels at a time. U-verse and DirecTV subscribers will also be able to access interactive features on screen including the ability to set up mosaic views by date and sport, retrieve medal counts and view content extras.
NBCU's late decision to offer Ultra HD coverage from the Olympic Games has left some operators scrambling to take advantage of the opportunity including gigabit broadband and pay-TV provider EPB Fiber Optics out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. An EPB executive told Light Reading that it is currently building new fiber connects to an NBC facility in Denver in order to enable access to the broadcaster's 4K content, and that additional operators are racing the clock to do the same ahead of the Opening Ceremony in Rio.
EPB previously upgraded its Mediaroom IPTV software from Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) for 4K video delivery, but the operator is also waiting on shipments of new set-tops to support 4K viewing. EPB believes the set-tops should be available before the Olympics start.
No operators have yet confirmed any plans to deliver Olympics content in High Dynamic Range (HDR) to subscribers, although NBC has said its 4K content will also include HDR, which delivers brighter, more vivid video playback.
Comcast, which owns NBCU, previously announced it would demonstrate HDR footage from the Olympics in select screening events. (See Comcast Plans HDR Screenings for Rio Games.)
The Olympics Opening Ceremony will take place on August 5, with the Closing Ceremony scheduled for August 21.
UPDATE: Comcast shared its 4K coverage plans after this story first went live. The story has now been updated to include the Comcast details.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading