Is 4K TV finally heating up?

Just 4 “short” years since 4K television was first demonstrated at CEDIA Expo, it seems like the format might finally be starting to get some momentum. If you’re a DIRECTV, DISH or Comcast subscriber, you might be enjoying some of the Olympics coverage — broadcast for the first time in “linear” 4K (meaning it’s not on demand, although it’s not truly live) and the hope is, there’s a lot more coming.

DIRECTV still leads the pack with three full-time channels of linear 4K, while DISH and Comcast have shown the ability to provide linear 4K when they want to. It’s worth noting that Netflix, YouTube and other services do stream some programs in 4K, but that’s no guarantee you’ll get 4K quality when you’re streaming unless you have a very clean 30Mbps connection all the way to their servers. 4K Blu-ray discs are finally out there and prices are already starting to drop on the players.

Every year, I post some sort of article asking where all the 4K content is, and it’s nice that there’s finally some sort of answer other than “there isn’t any.” At least the answer today is “there isn’t much.”

I think that’s going to change, though, now that DIRECTV’s proven that they can provide real 4K programming with full quality. The two newest satellites in their fleet could handle up to 50 4K channels, and it’s going to be a while before more capacity than that is needed. You’ll need a new LNB for that content and we’ll see even more DIRECTV equipment in the near future designed for compatibility with those new satellites. So, it seems like it’s all coming together.

The one thing that’s still not clear, though, is where all that content is going to come from. Still, yes, STILL, there hasn’t been one announcement of a full-time 4K channel from any of the national content providers. Disney/ABC, NBC/Universal, CBS, Viacom, Discovery Networks, HGTV, ABC, HBO/Time Warner… they’ve all been totally silent on 4K broadcasts even though it’s common knowledge that a lot of primetime programming is already being produced in 4K.

Forget about live 4K over-the-air, too… there’s still infighting and while there are some tests going on, there aren’t even any TVs sold today that will pull in 4K content over the air without a converter box. If there is 4K over-the-air, and I doubt there will be, it will take an act of Congress and everyone will need a new TV, AGAIN.

So yes, I’ll say that 4K is … warming up, the same way that Detroit warms up from -10 to 25 in the late winter. But to call it a bona fide heat wave of 4K content is very premature. Then again, summer inevitably comes eventually to Detroit, every year, and so I predict that eventually we’ll see a flood of 4K content. I just can’t tell you when.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.