The BBC Wants Broadcast 4K UHD TV by 2016

by on April 13, 2015

Stephan Jukic – April 13, 2015

According to the latest from the venerated giant of British and European broadcasting, the company has been busy outlining plans for “more flexible foundations” in adapting to how its consumers view TV and radio as well. Thus, according to recent remarks from the BBC’s CTO, the broadcaster is working for a new future that includes 4K UHD, virtual reality and other technologies.

According to Matthew Postgate, the chief technology officer of the BBC, the broadcasters technology arm, known as BBC Engineering, has taken on a new structure and approach for the sake of responding to how the internet has altered broadcasting to consumer audiences. This includes adapting to how programs are now made and how people both listen to and watch them.

In a recent blog post on the BBC’s website, Postgate claimed that using the internet to deliver content and media services would be a major new area of exploration for his public broadcasting corporation and would in turn help the BBC drive new innovation in exploring forms of content with “things like ultra HD and virtual reality”.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup was one of the BBC's major trial experiments in 4K UHD broadcasting

The 2014 FIFA World Cup was one of the BBC’s major trial experiments in 4K UHD broadcasting

Furthermore, in discussing the BBC’s future plans with the Financial Times, Postgate recently also explained that the BBC was likely to start broadcasting 4K TV programs and channels by 2016 in a standardized, formal way.

Currently, the public broadcaster is in the middle of 4K broadcast testing that has been going on since at least mid-2014. Part of this testing included limited live broadcasts of the 2014 FIFA World Cup games to a very small test audience in select UK theaters. The testing also includes developing the right compression standards for transmitting 4K broadcast content over terrestrial channels.

Thus, both talk and plans for having standardized 4K broadcasts coming from the BBC to UK audiences in 2016 and as early as late 2015 have been ongoing for some time now.

The BBC executive has said that the corporations challenge lies in taking advantage of the rapidly evolving “technology and multimedia landscapes for the benefit of the public” and capitalizing on the rise of features like mobile content viewing, VOD TV (video on demand) and social media platform access via TV. By concentrating on these and other technologies, the BBC will be able to do what it has historically done, according to Postgate, which is to innovate new broadcast technologies and transform the industry itself.

One area of focus will be developing the broadcast experience necessary for transmitting future Olympic Games in 2016, 2020 and 2024 to a nation that the BBC hopes will by then have universal high-speed broadband and a broadcast infrastructure in place to take advantage of it. The BBC wants to create this broadcast infrastructure and of course use it to transmit the next generation of consumer content, which will come with technologies like 4K ultra HD, HDR, and possibly even virtual reality.

After the 4K World Cup Trials for the 2014 World Cup, a survey done by the BBC of its own audience in the UK showed that, even now, 23% of viewers would benefit from 4K broadcasts. Tis figure will only rise dramatically in the next year and beyond. The BBC wants to be ready for that.

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