Comcast Finally Explains Why There Are there No Comcast 4K HDR Set-top Boxes Yet

by on March 22, 2017

Stephan Jukic – March 22, 2017

Comcast just keeps moving its goalposts forward on the supposed 4K resolution we were supposed to expect from the Company. After years spent teasing consumers with claims of imminent releases of 4K HDR set-top boxes and related developments, the telecoms giant has suddenly made a public about-turn and admitted that it’s deliberately delaying set-top releases until the 4K content landscape becomes clearer. Thus we now have a reason for why supposed 4K boxes like the Xi4, Xi5 and Xi6, which many have been waiting for since way back, never emerged.


In comments made during the Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies summit in Denver, Colorado recently, Joshua Seiden, executive director at Comcast Innovation Labs explained that the rapid evolution of 4K ultra HD content in combination with high dynamic range developments has made his company decide to slow down on their upcoming developments and deployments, at least until key technologies are more established.

One example of this is an idea to release set-top boxes with both 4K and HDR display capacity in time for the Summer Olympics in 2016. This plan was then completely shelved in order to let the standards for 10-bit HEVC and others become more concrete.

Then there’s the case of HDR, which is still something of a mess in the world of consumer display and content mastering standards. At this point, some fairly stable standardization has been reached in the form of HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats for content devices, TVs and actual HDR 4K content itself but even between these two HDR formats, the picture is far from set in stone. Now, even newer formats like HLG and the Technicolor HDR standard are entering the picture, with each having its own TV manufacturer supporters and even detractors.

HDR also happens to be quite new but despite emerging seriously on the consumer market in only the last 18 to 20 months, it has grown exponentially in terms of its presence and importance to any decent 4K UHD TV release or ultra HD content production. Thus, in Comcast’s defense on this, waiting for the HDR picture to clarify in the midst of such a meteoric rise in importance hasn’t necessarily been imprudent.

The company does however recognize the crucial importance of HDR and Seiden affirmed this by stating that “4K for us will always go with HDR”.

Comcast's only 4K service so far is the Xfinity UHD movie Sampler for some 4K TVs

Comcast’s only 4K service so far is the Xfinity UHD movie Sampler for some 4K TVs

What Comcast does want to do soon is deploy set-top boxes that feature both 4K and HDR standards of the most widespread and consumer-friendly kind, and it wants to deploy these in conjunction with the 10-bit HEVC 4K video compression standard as well.

All of this sounds great but it also has placed the company far in the back rankings of importance in an industry where 4K content is much more dominated by OTT providers that mostly deliver streaming video options and have made themselves the go-to choices among consumers for serious, interesting 4K HDR entertainment sources.

Given how rapidly sales of 4K TVs and even HDR 4K TVs are exploding, Comcast has more reason than ever before to finish up with the indecisiveness it has shown up to now.

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