A setback for 4K: Ultra HD broadcasting isn’t planned for the 2016 Rio Olympics according to the IOC

by on February 18, 2015

Stephan Jukic – February 18, 2015

It seems that the broadcast department of the International Olympics Committee isn’t exactly on the same wavelength as the Consumer Electronics Association or many broadcasters for that matter.

This is the case because they have claimed that they have “no plans for 4K TV broadcasting” during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. These Summer Olympics will be the next massive, globally televised sporting event after the 2014 FIFA World Cup games that were indeed broadcast at least partially in 4K.

These plans come in contrast to both the heavy promotional efforts for ultra HD by the Consumer Electronics Association during the recent International CES and to the wider efforts of many broadcasters to move their systems over to at least partial transmission of content, sportscasts and live events in full 4K ultra HD.

According to Yiannis Exarchos, the CEO of Olympic Broadcast Services, “There is no demand from our rights holders for 4K….” and “We have to take our cue from broadcasters”.

This indicates that the IOC is working with broadcasters that don’t have a specific interest in launching 4K transmissions of the extremely popular Olympic sporting events of 2016.

The IOC’s Olympic Broadcast Services unit has used the Games as a popular Launchpad for the showcasing of new viewing experiences and mediums on a number of previous occasions but in these upcoming Olympics, instead of 4K UHD, the OBS is investigating the possibility of using new virtual reality technologies as a way of augmenting the Olympic experience for select trial viewers in 2016.

This rather bizarre choice on the part of the IOC’s Broadcast Services committee stems from the idea that VR technology is maturing very quickly and that there is a considerable interest in the “virtual experience” in mobile phones, according to Exarchos.

The OBS CEO also explained that his division was mainly exploring VR applications around viewing parts of the Games after the Olympics have already finished.

Given that 4K is growing thanks to an absolutely enormous amount of worldwide interest from consumers, broadcasters and electronics makers alike and that the number of 4K TVs sold in 2014 alone exceeded 10 million units globally, the sudden focus on Virtual Reality does seem a little odd and off-base.

Nonetheless, there is at least some corollary interest in this direction from Hollywood, some of whose studios have also started experimenting with VR. Some executives, such as Fox Home Entertainment president Mike Dunn, are even predicting that VR will reach a mainstream audience of 25 million households by as early as 2017.

However, again, 4K viewing already reaches well over 10 million viewers worldwide and is expected to reach many more by 2016 and 2017, so even with the predictions around VR technology, the choice of going in that direction instead of focusing on 4K broadcasting is surprising to say the least.

Nonetheless, while 4K has apparently gone out the window for the 2016 Olympics, ultra high resolution of an even higher sort definitely is in the works.

In a seemingly contradictory plan of action, the OBS is still sticking to plans it has with Japan’s national broadcaster NHK to test out experimental trial broadcasts of gaming events in full blown 8K resolution like none ever shown to audiences in history. 8K offers 16 times the resolution of HD and 8 times the pixels of 4K.

8K TV prototype

The test broadcasts that the IOC is planning to do in 8K for Rio 2016 wont be visible to many viewers with the absence of non-prototype 8K TVs

Again, Exarchos weighs in: “In my opinion, 8K is much more of a game-changer than 4K…” “..You can see a huge difference in experience whereas the gap between HD and 4K is far less”.

In other words, the IOC does want its Olympic broadcasts to go beyond HD but they’d prefer to aim for the kind of truly immense resolution boost that will awe audiences as 4K couldn’t.

Of course, while this is a big goal to move towards, it also bypasses the possibilities of 4K Olympic broadcasts straight  to viewers’ homes; while millions of consumers have 4K TVs already ready and working in their houses, nobody anywhere has an 8K TV and the only models of such TVs showcased to-date have been prototypes.

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  • jerryj
    February 19, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Hilarious math: “8K offers 16 times the resolution of HD and 8 times the pixels of 4K”. Where are the fact checkers?


    • Chad
      March 16, 2015 at 9:03 am

      Full HD 1920 X 1080 = 2,073,600 Pixels
      4K 3740 X 2160 = 8,294,400 Pixels
      8K 7680 X 4320 = 33,177,600 Pixels
      33,177,600 / 2,073,600 = 16 therefore 8K has 16 times as many pixels as HD
      33,177,600 / 8,294,400 = 4 therefore 8K has 4 times as many pixels as 4K

      Facts checked


  • tim
    July 19, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    … and article confirmed to be wrong!


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