4K/8K Video

Comcast Launches 4K Streaming Service

Following closely in DirecTV's footsteps, Comcast has become the second major US pay-TV provider to start offering Ultra HD (UHD) programming to its subscribers.

Comcast, the biggest pay-TV operator in the US with nearly 22.4 million video customers, has launched a 4K streaming app that will enable subscribers to watch select TV shows in the UHD format on an on-demand basis via the Internet. The MSO's Xfinity TV subscribers can download the new 4K app, known as Xfinity in UHD, for free using their standard authentication credentials.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which set a year-end deadline for launching the streaming service when it announced its 4K plans at CES last January, is initially making the new Xfinity app available to customers with 2014 Ultra HD sets from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) under a deal it struck earlier with the leading consumer electronics manufacturer. But the MSO will undoubtedly broaden its reach to other CE makers over time. (See Gentlemen, Start Your 4K Engines.)

Right off the bat, Comcast is offering full seasons from select TV shows from its NBCUNiversal unit's NBC and USA networks. Specifically, it's debuting with episodes from NBC's Chicago Fire and USA's Covert Affairs, with NBC's Parks and Recreation series slated to follow in February. Plans call for adding other shows and networks over time as Comcast builds up its UHD programming library.

Get the latest updates on new video services and technologies by visiting Light Reading's video services content channel.

By offering the 4K streaming service for no extra charge to its customers, Comcast is taking a different tack than DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), its huge satellite TV rival. DirecTV, which ranks second only to Comcast in its video sub count, introduced its 4K streaming service last month by offering about 30 movie titles on a pay-per-view basis. Customers must pay up to $10 a title to watch the movies on-demand.

Besides delivering Xfinity in UHD to Sansung TV viewers, Comcast said it will offer the 4K streaming service to portable devices through its Xfinity TV Go app sometime next year. The MSO also intends to introduce an advanced new X1 set-top box that supports 4K video in 2015.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

COMMENTS Add Comment
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MarkC73 12/23/2014 | 2:52:09 PM
Re: Blurred lines Hmm, interesting point, People who own 4k TVs and People who know where 4k content can be obtained, aren't always the same people.

On one hand, retina displays are getting out there and some displays/video cards for Windows too, though I heard the Windows 8's integration with 4k displays is not so good.  So you are and will see more content on the internet.  But content is, in my opinion, still king.  So even though it may start with YouTube and Netflix (even DTV), Comcast (NBC) adding their popular shows could be a catalyst for other content providers to start offering more and more, and then we'll see it become a popular platform.

As far as distribution, again if Comcast (plus TWC) pushes it to their subs then others will follow suit.  Granted, it will have to be economical, or it will be only phased in with Greenfield applications or where bandwidth isn't an issue.  Or in other words if I can charge more, I'll build more.  If it's just a value add, I'll get the service ready so I can say I've got it, but the build will be slower.  Fortunately for where I'm at, FTTH seems to be the in thing, so even if the 4K content isn't a driver, it will eventually get rolled out when it gets competitively available.

gconnery 12/23/2014 | 2:18:25 PM
Re: Blurred lines Yeah, just because they claim a 4K display rate doesn't mean they'll deliver a bit rate that really supports that.  I suspect most people would have trouble getting 15 or 20Mbps streams going reliably at peak times.  We'll see how this works out.  Presumably it'll be the typical VBR encoding which will just give you lower quality if you can't sustain the bit rate required, and you won't probably even know.  As others have already pointed out the number of people who have these particular TVs, who even know this app exists, etc will be very small.  So there won't be much use for the moment.
brooks7 12/20/2014 | 3:25:18 PM
Re: Can I still just get standard def in the future, please? If you watch sports, you would instantly like HDTV.  Not sure about 4K, but probably that as well.  These things don't matter much to talking heads.


MarkC73 12/19/2014 | 4:14:10 PM
Re: Blurred lines Encoding bandwidth rates are different than the streaming rate, most articles I've read expect the rate to be about 12-20mbps per 4K stream depending on the content that you are watching.  Content generation is also a good topic, Comcast doesn't need to pay anything extra to aquire NBC's content, or at least pay with real money, so why not give it as an add value for 'stickiness'


Also remember like HD, there's different things that people call 4K as far as resolution.
mhhf1ve 12/19/2014 | 3:54:36 PM
Re: Can I still just get standard def in the future, please? It's not that I *don't* like HD -- it's just that I don't really appreciate how much "better" everyone seems to say it is over SDTV. I mean, color TV vs B&W TV was a huge change. SD to HD -- meh. HD to 4K? uh, what is the point? And will there be a 4K to "whatever the heck you call the maximum resolution of the human eyeball"? Why don't we try skipping straight to the max resolution of human perception? 

4K just seems like a way to eat up more bandwidth and force people to upgrade their hardware unnecessarily... to me, at least. I don't see the compelling reason to adopt 4K from HD. 
jbtombes 12/19/2014 | 3:27:22 PM
Re: Can I still just get standard def in the future, please? You don't like HD? It's for sure easier on my eyes. One thing about 4k is that it could pull 3D in its wake. Easier to do passive 3D when you've got 2x as many lines. Also the detail and depth of 4k provides something like a no-glasses 3D experience. 
mhhf1ve 12/19/2014 | 2:32:20 PM
Can I still just get standard def in the future, please? I know eventually I'll have to upgrade my TV and get 4K capability bundled with it, but I'm still not convinced that HD is all that impressive. I see more zits and wrinkles on the nightly news anchors for the local stations... and that's not really what I want.

I'm glad 3D TVs didn't catch on... those things gave me a headache. 
kq4ym 12/19/2014 | 1:09:35 PM
Re: Blurred lines If Comcast can deliver on it's promises it should eclipse Directv in a very competitive market. Giving it away free vs. $10 a shot at Directv would be a big advantage. But on the other hand, it's still going to be a limited market for a while as consumer hang back from buying those very expensive TVs.
sridhar_ramesh 12/19/2014 | 12:15:02 PM
Re: Blurred lines Internet streaming seems to have little to do with UHD quality.

Logistically, it seems the simplest way for cable operators to deliver the bit-rate for 4K video, since a channel bonding scheme has not been defined for linear QAM video.

(Each QAM channel delivers 38 Mbps & 4K video might need more than that).

DOCSIS 3.0, on the other hand, does feature channel bonding and bit rates in excess of 100 Mbps.
jbtombes 12/19/2014 | 10:36:38 AM
Re: Blurred lines no video expert here... but at least on the OTT side, Netflix and Amazon surely have some encoding geeks who have prepped a service (albeit limited) designed to satisfy the (admittedly lower than cable TV sub) expectations. There, enough qualifications? Anyway, I'd say that this revolution is likely to be streamed to the computer monitor first, rather than televised, so to speak.
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