4K TV Channels on the way in Europe as New Broadcasting Specification Approved

by on July 14, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – July 14th, 2014

Currently, 4K is mostly just available as a streaming service via select services such as Netflix and (soon) Amazon Prime. Beyond that, there are a few TV broadcasters that offer select programming in 4K and of course you can always also buy Blu-ray 4K DVD releases of select content.

But as for actual dedicated TV channels serving up content in crystal clear 4K UHD, well that’s still in the works. However, it is getting closer to becoming a reality, at least in the European Union thanks to a new UHD TV broadcast standard approved by the DVB Steering Board for Europe.

Called the DVB-UHDTV Phase 1 specification, it allows for over the air transmission of 3,840 x 2,160 pixel resolution pictures at a 60Hz refresh rate and a much improved color setting of 10 bits instead of 8.

Once this specification is officially standardized in the continent, it will almost certainly open the floodgates for widespread and easy to transmit 4K Ultra HD broadcasting throughout the Western European region. This broadcasting will be possible via satellite and over the air platforms.

Even if a lot of the content that gets transmitted won’t be in native 4K format (it won’t have been filmed in 4K with the right cameras) the upscaling engines in 4K capable TVs, projectors and display monitors will ensure that picture quality is still much better than what you’d see with any conventional HD transmission to a 4K TV. Furthermore, the DVB specification itself resolves a much better delivered picture quality thanks to the specs listed above.

The way in which the new DVB-UHDTV standard works is by using a well-known compression codec for 4K known as HEVC, which is already being used by Netflix on their 4K streaming efforts and produces much better efficiency of video compression ratios than standard MPEG-4/H.264.

What HEVC basically does is compress the total pixel count of a 4K video clip so that, while it contains 8 times as many pixels as HD, it can be transmitted on only twice the bandwidth.

There are high hopes among many broadcasters and content creators such as BBC, Netflix, Amazon and others in places like Japan that HEVC will unlock widespread 4K transmission despite global average internet connection speeds that are below what’s recommended for UHD.

However, problems still exist with the DVB-HDTV standard. Principally among them is the fact that it’s not yet compatible with any modern TV tuner, not even those found in some of the latest 4K TV models that are actually ready for straightforward HEVC decoding such as that which Netflix is using.

Furthermore, the first TVs that can handle DVB-HDTV won’t start coming out on the market until early 2015.

Thus, for now, 4K enthusiasts will have to be patient for just a bit longer before they can have access to actual full service broadcaster created over the air 4K content channels. At least however, those of you who already do own a 4K TV can definitely take advantage of Netflix 4K streaming and the soon to arrive releases from Amazon Studios and other ultra HD content producers.

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