DirecTV’s first new dedicated 4K Ultra HD Channel is about to go live, two others to follow

by on April 7, 2016

Stephan Jukic – April 07, 2016

AT&T, the parent company of DirecTV is on the verge of launching the subsidiary’s first dedicated 4K ultra HD TV channel as of Thursday April 7th, timed to coincide with the 2016 Masters golf tournament, which kicks off on the 7th. DirecTV has said that it would air all four rounds of the Masters on its new 4K channel from 10:30 am to 6 pm ET on each day of the Masters event, which takes place from the 7th to the 10th.

The 4K coverage will feature four rounds of play between the three days, particularly at the so-called Amen Corner, which refers to the 11th, 12th and 13th holes at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

In order to pull off their 4K broadcast, the company is teaming up with CBS, which will itself be shooting the rounds slated for live UHD recording through Sony professional 4K cinematic cameras and with the assistance of a 4K-ready broadcasting truck from Mobile TV Group.

The 2016 Master's tournament in 4K resolution

The 2016 Master’s tournament in 4K resolution

The service for broadcasting the live 4K coverage to subscribing consumers will be enabled by two DirecTV satellites, which will later also be used to offer customers studio movies, documentaries and other prerecorded 4K ultra HD content on a regularly scheduled basis. There will also soon be 4K PPV offerings from the broadcaster.

Customers who want to enjoy these newly unveiled 4K offerings will have to be subscribers of DirecTV’s top-shelf Ultimate or Premier package subscriptions and also own one of the company’s Genie HD DVR boxes as well as either a 4K TV with DirecTV readiness or an ultra HD television that’s connected to the latest version of a Genie mini device.

DirecTV is also aiming to add high dynamic range, Wide Color Gamut and 60fps frame rates to their 4K broadcast programming according to AT&T’s senior VP of satellite operations, Phil Goswitz. Goswitz has also stated that AT&T is working through DirecTV with the UHD Alliance and the UHD Forum for increased standardization that can be the bedrock of the new DirecTV service: “We have a platform that’s ready. But in terms of a standardized solution for all television [the 4K content industry’s] not there yet.”

This first 4K UHD channel from DirecTV is only one of three that the company is planning on unveiling. While the broadcasts of the Masters tourney will be delivered to what is called channel 106, other programming in ultra HD will soon also arrive to channel 104, which will be devoted to a mix of 4K entertainment such as documentaries and original programming from the broadcaster’s Audience Network channel.

Then there’s also channel 105, which will introduce a full-time PPV roster of movies, documentaries and other assorted content.

DirecTV has also explained that the PPV and other content in 4K which is coming now and soon will not require lengthy download times, since it will be stored for streaming transmission inside the company’s satellites, instead of being downloaded to TVs or the Genie DVR across an internet connection. This is good news for subscribers of DirecTV’s first 4K VOD service, which offered a few dozen movie titles for download to TVs at speeds that sometimes meant hours of waiting for a single piece of content to be ready.

According to the FAQ on the company’s own website, the new 4K UHD channel service only allows for watching one piece of programming at a time, even if a subscriber has multiple 4K TVs in their home.

Once again, users who want to get a subscription to these new 4K programming channels will need to subscribe to the company’s Ultimate or Premier programming package, buy themselves a HR54 Genie HD DVR system and also get a 4K Genie mini for most models of 4K TV.

DirecTV's Genie Mini box will be needed for accessing the company's 4K channels

DirecTV’s Genie Mini box will be needed for accessing the company’s 4K channels

It should also be noted that overall, this new service is almost ridiculously expensive in certain ways. For starters, the necessary DirecTV HR54 DVR requires signing up for a two year subscription contract. On top of this, users need to connect it to a 4K Genie Mini, which means a $50 installation fee if a technician comes over. And then, aside from these expenses, the two DirecTV subscription packages necessary for access to the 4K channels are both pricey, with the Ultimate package costing $92 per month and the Premier package going for a whopping $145 monthly fee.

In simple terms, as a first ever U.S 4K broadcasting service, the new DirecTV package shows some unfortunately typical corporate gouging with heavy rules and steep prices. However, given the growing roster of internet streaming 4K services and the potential for other upcoming 4K broadcast packages via satellite or OTT, DirecTV and its parent AT&T might soon be forced to compete a bit better for customers on this particular front.

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