2016 Rio Olympics will come in 4K after all: NBC to air the Games in UHD with HDR and Atmos sound

by on May 31, 2016

Stephan Jukic – May 31, 2016

NBC has announced that the 2016 Rio Olympics will definitely be getting a 4K UHD showcasing to at least some audiences with the ability to watch them in the resolution. The broadcaster will make content from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro available to carriers in not just 4K resolution but also with high dynamic range and Dolby Atmos sound, at least for those who have 4K TVs and sound systems which support 4K itself and these new 4K-related technologies. We don’t however yet know what HDR format NBC plans on using with their Olympic sportscasts.

NBC is making 4K UHD HDR footage of the 2016 Games available for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, swimming competitions, track and field, basketball, the men’s soccer final and judo competitions via a 24 hour tape delay. Thus, while the footage made available by NBC won’t be live, its delayed version will offer a visual experience that blows live HD streaming of the Games completely out of the water in terms of overall quality.

These 4K replay sportscasts will be coming in 4K resolution thanks to NBC’s downscaling of native live 8K resolution recording footage being made of the 2016 Games by the Japanese state broadcaster NHK for the sake of the latter company’s continuing experimentation in live 8K public broadcasting in the time remaining before the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.

After downscaling NHK’s 8K video footage of the events in Rio, NBC will then also add in high Dynamic range and Dolby Atmos sound encoding for those viewers who own the latest 4K TVs models and sound systems capable of handling both of these specs.

According to NBC Sports president Gary Zenkel, “”The Olympics have been a consistent driver of technological advancements, and Rio will be no different.”

NBC's Parent compan is Comcast, developer of the 4K HDR-capable Xi5 set-top box which is coming out in July

NBC’s Parent company is Comcast, developer of the 4K HDR-capable Xi5 set-top box which is coming out in July

This new turn in 2016 Olympic broadcasting is of course very welcome news for fans of 4K sports watching on their UHD TVs, and the news from NBC goes in direct contrast to earlier statements by the Olympic Broadcasting Services arm of the IOC, which claimed that the organization has no direct plans for 4K delivery of the 2016 Summer Games. Nonetheless, we here at this site expected to hear of something like this emerge –a third party broadcast provider making its own efforts to ensure that 4K delivery of the sports events does indeed happen in the summer.

However, there is a catch here too. It remains to be seen which carriers are willing or able to actually deliver NBC’s 4K broadcasts and their HDR/Atmos combination to select customers. So far, it seems that DirecTV and Dish will both possibly offer the Olympic broadcasts in ultra HD since both companies can handle the resolution through their satellite transmission services and set-top boxes. On the other hand, even NBC itself in particular is a good candidate for these particular broadcasts since its parent company Comcast has already stated that it will start distributing its HDR-capable 4K UHD Xi5 set-top box as of July, comfortably ahead of the August 5th start of the 2016 Rio Olympic broadcasts.

Comcast's upcoming Xi5 set-top 4K HDR media box

Comcast’s upcoming Xi5 set-top 4K HDR media box

4K HDR coverage of the Rio Olympics would give potential buyers of the Xi5 one robust incentive to get their hands on the box as soon as it comes out.

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  • Johnny
    June 5, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Hopefully 4K Olympic footage makes it way to YouTube.


  • Bob
    July 11, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Can you confirm Comcast’s is actually able to provide these Xi5 boxes? I just requested one today and was told that the Xi4 nor the Xi5 boxes are ready for customers… What is the deal. I live in PA.


    • Stephen
      July 16, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      Hey Bob, the whole thing remians shrouded in Comcast-generated mystery. The company claimed in May of this year that it would be shipping out the HDR-capable Xi5 boc but that this box would not come with 4K support (despite supporting HDR, which is very odd indeed since HDR is a 4K-specific technology for now) And they also claimed that their Xi6 box, which will support both HDR and 4K video, is coming “down the road”.. Like I said, if we get any concrete updates on this issue, we’ll cover them as well but so far, the best we know so far is what we stated in this news piece from a few months back:


  • Paul
    July 29, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Why is it on a 1 day delay? This is stupid.


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