Owners of Ultra HDTVs who are also customers of DirecTV, Dish Network or Comcast are in luck: They’ll be the only people in the U.S. able to watch NBC Olympics’ 83 hours of coverage from Rio in the vividly sharp format — with four times the pixel count of regular HD.
But the UHD programming won’t be live: NBC Olympics’ 4K Ultra HD coverage will include footage from the Opening and Closing Ceremonies on a 2.5-hour delay, along with swimming, track and field, basketball and judo, each on a one-day delay, as well as video shot around Rio. The programming on the three pay-TV providers’ platforms will be available starting Aug. 6, the day after the Opening Ceremony, through Aug. 22, the day after the Games conclude.
AT&T’s DirecTV, the first U.S. pay-TV provider to offer a dedicated 4K UHD channel, will make the Olympics programming in the format available to customers with the Ultimate programming package (or higher) with a Genie HD DVR model HR54 or later and a compatible 4K TVs (or a 4K TV connected to a 4K Genie Mini).
Dish customers with a Hopper 3 DVR or and 4K Joey set-top can tune to the 4K Olympics footage on linear channel 146. One event from the previous day’s competition will be provided daily and looped on the channel in three-hour intervals, and the same 4K video assets will be available in Dish’s video-on-demand catalog.
Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal, also is getting into the UHD Olympics action — but will make it available only through broadband-connected Ultra HDTVs from Samsung and LG, via the Xfinity Ultra High Definition Sampler app, not on a linear channel.
While the entertainment industry expects Ultra HD to be the natural successor to today’s high-definition format, penetration of UHD sets is still relatively small. About 6 million Ultra HDTVs shipped in North America last year 2015, with the market projected to double this year to 12 million units, according to market research firm IHS. The Consumer Technology Association issued a more bullish forecast last week, projecting shipments of 4K UHD displays in the U.S. to hit 15 million units this year, representing revenue of $12.9 billion. The trade group also expects sales of about 700,000 4K UHD Blu-ray players in 2016, generating $63 million in revenue.
The two satcasters’ ability to carry Ultra HD programming on linear channels puts them ahead of cable rivals, although that’s not much of a advantage given that there aren’t any major TV networks distributed in the format today. This week, SES announced the first trials of U.S. cable linear UHD programming, with five small operators.
In addition to the UHD, the three operators will provide enhanced ways to follow the Olympics.
Comcast will prominently featuring the Rio Games on its X1 connected set-top platform, delivering all 4,500 hours of NBC Olympics programming — including events being streamed over the Internet — to customers on TV. The cable operator’s Olympics menu on X1 will display live events currently available, provide access to on-screen info with news and stats, and let viewers select their favorite athletes, events and countries to get alerts.
DirecTV customers will have access to an “eight-screens-in-one” mix channel when the Games start Friday, Aug. 5, with live feeds of NBC, NBCSN, Golf Channel, Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, USA Network and NBC Universo all on the same screen. AT&T U-verse TV customers can view a four-screens-in-one on the U-verse Multiview channel with NBC, NBCSN, Bravo and USA.
Dish will launch an Olympics hub on channel 148, providing navigation across the 10 NBCU networks carrying Olympics coverage. Hopper 3 customers also will have access to a “Sports Bar Mode” four-channel multichannel view to toggle among networks.