With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil now just seven months away, this really could be the year for 4K video to make its mark in the sports broadcasting world.
As predicted by my colleague Mari Silbey four months ago, the Chinese Year of the Monkey is already shaping up to be the tipping point for live 4K TV sports in North America. Over the past few days, two major developments have borne this out. (See Sports in 4K, It's Coming.)
First, Videotron Ltd. , the third-largest cable operator in Canada, announced late last week that it has begun to carry live sporting events in the Ultra HD (UHD) format that encompasses 4K video. Plans call for showing at least four NHL hockey and eight NBA basketball games in UHD over the rest of the season, starting with last Thursday's hockey matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators. Videotron subscribers need a special 4K Ultra HD PVR from the cable company and a compatible 4K TV set to watch the broadcasts.
Videotron thus joins fellow Canadian MSO and broadcaster Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) in offering live sporting events in 4K to its select UHD subscribers this year. Last fall, Rogers, the second-largest MSO in Canada, unveiled plans to carry 81 Toronto Blue Jays home baseball games and key NHL matchups in 4K, as well as support 4K entertainment programming from Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Shomi, the new OTT video service that Rogers operates with yet another large Canadian MSO, Shaw Communications Inc.
In the second major development in recent days, NeuLion Inc. announced this morning that it will team up with Univision and NEP to deliver the first live North American soccer broadcast in 4K. The three companies will join forces to stream the February 10 Mexico-Senegal matchup from Miami OTT to viewers with Sony 4K Ultra HD TV sets. (See Univision Deportes, NeuLion & NEP Team to Deliver First North American Live Soccer Broadcast in 4K .)
Notably, the partners are streaming the soccer match in 4K to herald a new Univision Deportes OTT app that will stream more live soccer action to fans in North America. Univision said the new app "will be made available to select 4K devices in the coming months."
So, with BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) working with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) on UHD sports channels in the UK and the Rio Olympics coming up fast, we could see a real rampup of live 4K sports programming in the coming months. Now we just need ESPN to jump into the game. Are you getting the picture yet, Bristol? (See BT Preps UHD TV Channel With Ericsson.)
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading