According to Sky Cable, your 4K TV might not yet be able to handle ultra HD sports

by on June 8, 2015

Stephan Jukic – June 08, 2015

While your 4K ultra HD TV may seem to you like the very best in home entertainment technology, this might not quite be the case. In fact, it can depend a lot on just which TV or which generation of TV you’ve got in your home.

This is the problem that was recently discussed by an executive of Sky who explained how some earlier 4K TV models might not end up being able to play back 4K sportscasts on their screen for technical reasons.

Basically, early adapters of 4K TVs might own one of those older models which don’t quite have the processing power to play UHD content at a rate that’s higher than 25 frames per second.

This frame rate works okay for studio movies and TV shows but when it comes to sportscasts, whether they be in HD or the UHD we’ll soon see a lot of sports being broadcast in (presumably), higher frame rates are a crucial factor of quality due to the fast pace of the content and this might mean incompatibility with old 4K TVs from the first generations to emerge.

Chris Jones, chief engineer of broadcast strategy at Sky recently explained: “If you bought a [4K TV] set in 2013 and early 2014, then sorry, it won’t do sport”. He also added that “It’l only go up to 25 frames per second. If you bought a set last year, even a set in the sales this summer, this spring, then I’m sorry, it won’t do High Dynamic Range, which gives you better, brighter pictures.”

Jones also claims that sports broadcasts would best and most likely be transmitter at 100 frames per second and this means using some huge processing power at resolutions of 4K UHD.

Of course, more modern name-brand 4K TVs from the latter quarters of 2014 and from 2015 to date can almost all handle High Dynamic Range and they’re also equipped to manage 4K content at very high frame rates of 60 or more but for a large number of early adaptors, the punishment now arrives in yet another form. The worst thing about this is that those who bought some of the first 4K TVs also likely paid the highest prices for their models given that only more recent models from the last year onward have really been becoming highly affordable while also coming with much more standardized technologies.

Newer 4K TVs, particularly from 2015, such as this Sony X850C edition, are future-proofed for new content technologies

Newer 4K TVs, particularly from 2015, such as this Sony X850C edition, are future-proofed for new content technologies

However, all is not lost. Some brands are taking steps to avoid leaving their loyal older 4K buyers out in the cold. Samsung, for example, currently sells what they call their UHD Evolution Kit. For a little over $600, the external connectivity box will let owners of older Samsung TVs upgrade their performance to the latest standards. The Evolution Kit doesn’t work for all models but it is compatible with many of the better known UHD TVs from the company that were sold in 2013 and early 2014.

Even now, there are no absolutely concrete standards on 4K content specs. HDR content, which is emerging later this year, hasn’t yet been fitted with a single across-the-board standard and even video compression coding might undergo further changes in the months to come. Currently the vast majority of 4K transmissions and streamed content are encoded with HEVC (H.265) video compression.

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