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DirecTV Launches 4K UltraHD Video-on-Demand with 19 Titles

Satcaster offers titles from Paramount, K2 Communications; VOD service requires compatible Samsung 4K TV

DirecTV is the first pay-TV provider to deliver 4K UltraHD content to subscribers — although the satcaster trails both Sony’s and Netflix’s forays in delivering TV shows and movies in the next-generation video format.

Starting Friday, DirecTV will let customers choose from among 19 titles from Paramount Pictures and K2 Communications. Those include Paramount’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” but most of the selections are older films and nature documentary features.

To access the UltraHD content, DirecTV customers will need an Internet-connected Genie HD DVR (model HR34 and above), and a Samsung Electronics UltraHD TV that is certified “DirecTV 4K Ready.”

“The picture quality and depth of detail that 4K provides is nothing short of remarkable and we will continue to expand our 4K lineup as consumer demand grows and evolves,” Romulo Pontual, DirecTV EVP and CTO, said in a statement.

In 2015, DirecTV expects to launch linear 4K channels, CEO Mike White said on the company’s earnings call last week, but no additional details are available on that front yet.

UltraHD provides stunning sharpness, with nearly four times the resolution of 1080p HD. But it’s early days in the evolution of the 4K television market: Just 800,000 UltraHD TVs ship in the U.S. this year, about 2% of 38.5 million total TV sets, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Industry analysts expect adoption to ramp in the coming years, especially as more 4K content hits the market: By 2018, 46 million households worldwide will subscribe to a 4K UHD pay-TV service, according to a forecast by Parks Associates.

The 4K titles from DirecTV are: “Forrest Gump,” “Star Trek (2009),” “Amistad,” “The Terminal,” “McLintock!,” “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “The Last Reef,” “Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs,” “Antarctica,” “Dolphins,” “Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag,” “Dinosaurs Alive!,” “Coral Reef Adventure,” “Space Junk,” “Yellowstone,” “Legends of Flight,” “Rescue,” “The Ultimate Wave Tahiti” and “Mysteries of the Great Lakes.”

Also Thursday, M-Go — a joint venture between Technicolor and DreamWorks Animation — announced a deal with Samsung to stream 4K movies and TV shows that are rented or purchased through the service. Movies include “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” “The Giver,” “Power,” “Ghost in the Shell” and “Limitless.” According to M-Go, the selections will grow to 100 titles by the end of 2014.

Meanwhile, Netflix launched 4K content earlier this year with “House of Cards” season two among its first programming available in the format. Other UltraHD titles on the streamer include “Breaking Bad,” “Smurfs 2,” “Ghostbusters,” “Ghostbusters 2″ and the four-part “Moving Art” nature documentary series.

Netflix initially offered UltraHD content to subs on its standard plan, via 4K TVs from LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio. But this summer started requiring new customers to enroll in the “family” plan at $11.99 monthly, which allows simultaneous streaming of up to four programs, to watch content in the format. Amazon.com this week issued a statement that it will not charge extra for UltraHD content streamed on Prime Instant Video.

Sony, meanwhile, launched its $699 4K Ultra HD Internet Movie Player in July 2013. The company’s Video Unlimited 4K service now offers 200 titles, including “Deliver Us From Evil,” “Think Like A Man Too,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “About Last Night (2014)” and “The Monuments Men.”

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