Comcast says it’s ready for 4K Distribution, but waiting to “flip on its 4K switch”

by on August 25, 2015

Stephan Jukic – August 25, 2015

The 4K content problem is still something that’s dogging the industry for this new display technology at all levels. While TV sales and thus increased production keep ramping up and new 4K cameras become a standard part of the video production industry, 4K content itself and particularly 4K content from professional studios and distributors, is still a relative rarity on the consumer market.

Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Ultraflix and BT Sport in Europe are doing their part to change this with a number of innovative new content options (HDR 4K content in the case of Netflix and Amazon and live 4K sports broadcasting in the case of BT Sport) but the overall picture of content in ultra HD remains rather weak for the time being.

Now, Comcast is also trying to play a larger part in making this scarcity of UHD change. The U.S broadcast giant has already had a highly limited, almost experimental 4K video-on-demand service running since 2014 but the selections available have been fairly limited and the programming was, oddly, only available to Samsung 4K TVs.

Nonetheless, the company is now claiming that it essentially only needs to “flip the switch” and have a large volume of ultra HD selections ready for its customers, but just as soon as they begin demanding the new type of video programming en masse.

In a recent interview with TechHive, VP of consumer services at Comcast, Mercien Jenckes, covered a whole range of 4K-related details and these included both the company’s plans to deliver 4K at a scaled up rate and its technical capacity in doing so.

According to Jenckes, speaking in the interview,

“I think like many things, consumer demand will determine how fast 4K and HDR content become pervasive. The reality is that today, the total number of movies and shows being produced in 4K UHD and HDR is still quite small. Our job is to make sure when the networks and studios really start to lean into developing this type of content, we have the tools in place to deliver a great experience. From a network and technology perspective, we’re ready today”

Two examples of Comcast’s “readiness” are their existing Xfinity 4K on-demand service and their upcoming Xi4 set-top box. Which will offer its buyers what are supposed to be “hundreds” of titles in 4K resolution. While such a box is definitely a step forward for the company and 4K availability as a whole, it’s still hardly a major change from the existing order of things. Sony already has its own similar box with more or less the same quantity of content, in the form of the FMP X10 4K media player, which is compatible with a wide range of 4K TV brands, not just Sony models.

What Comcast really could do to ramp up 4K content production is open up that technical infrastructure to the very content producers the company works with and even outright owns in some cases.

That said, the upcoming Xi4 box is better than nothing and the hundreds of titles it’s supposed to include consist of offerings like (in the words of Comcast itself):

“films originally produced for IMAX® and other Giant Screen Theaters from K2 Communications and Havoc TV like The Ultimate Wave Tahiti, Antarctica, Rocky Mountain Express, Fighter Pilot and Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia. Full current seasons of hit TV shows such as Syfy’s Defiance; USA’s Playing House, Satisfaction and Suits; and original programming from STARZ including Outlander and Power will also be included.”

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