BT Will Be the First with a 4K TV Channel

– And It’s a Sports Channel with Live Action in 4K
– UEFA Champions League Games & Other Live Sports Events
– Sales of UHD TVs to Boom Followed by Demand for 4K Content from OTT Services

BT will be the first pay TV service in the Western Hemisphere to launch a dedicated 4K channel – and it’ll offer live sports – and only live sports. By the start of this year’s English football season, BT will offer in the UK a 4K channel called BT Sport Ultra HD that will show the strongest draw in the pay TV kingdom – live sports in the form of European football including 4K broadcasts of UEFA Champions League games.


BT HQ Jul 2014

BT: 4K will require more bandwidth in the network to the home


So, the first dedicated 4K pay TV channel will be in Britain, not in the US or a continental European country. And it will be sports, the hardest TV content to broadcast in 4K – and which many have been saying that 4K broadcast equipment, networks and current UHD TV sets weren’t capable of doing. It would have been far easier for BT to have done slow-moving dramas in 4K.


BT Destroys 4K Myths

BT’s 4K venture destroys once and for all the myths about 4K:
– 4K broadcast cameras aren’t available
– Live sports can’t be broadcast in 4K
– Networks don’t have the bandwidth to transmit 4K
– There aren’t enough UHD TV sets in use
– Current UHD sets aren’t capable of showing live action, fast-moving sports in 4K
– Consumers don’t have STBs that are capable of supporting 4K

Football and other high-action sports require multiple 4K cameras that are closely coordinated so as not to miss an important play and to capture the action from multiple angles. BT is prepared for that.

4K will require more bandwidth in the network to the home. BT loves 4K because UK consumers will ask for and pay for faster Internet speeds – and BT, as the country’s largest broadband service, will benefit the most. Once the consumer has watched the sporting events in which they are interested, they’ll start looking for more 4K content and today it is only available from the OTT services. It should be expected that at some point BT will offer non-sports 4K shows on other 4K channels. That will give BT an even greater edge over other non-4K pay TV services.

4K also requires UHD TV sets, so sales of those will start increasing as the football season approaches. It’s too bad the UK doesn’t have a Vizio or a Hisense to sell 4K sets at affordable prices – yet. BT’s move will make UK consumers more aware of 4K and perhaps start a price war in UHD sets – the kind that is currently intensifying in the US.

4K also requires a 4K capable STB. BT will have one – the new BT TV Ultra HD box, which BT calls the “best ever” Youview+ box. In addition to receiving and sending 4K channels to a UHD TV, it’ll hold about 250 hours of HD content on its 1TB drive.


The Content

The UHD channel will also broadcast in 4K the Barclays Premier League, the FA Cup, and Aviva Premiership Rugby. The first one up will be The Community Shield charity match between the Premier League and FA Cup winners. Kickoff is August 2, 2015.

John Petter, BT’s CEO of its consumer operations, said, “This is a new chapter for European football on TV. BT Sport will show hundreds of live matches throughout the tournament using the very latest technology.” Piling it on, he added, “Our presenters and experts will also provide the smartest insight and analysis.”


4K Naysayers Take One Final Try

There are the expected 4K-naysayers. BT’s rival, the satco Sky, was one of them. Instead of focusing on how it allowed BT to get such a jump on it and how it would catch up in 4K, especially in the all-important sports broadcasting, Sky’s chief engineer of broadcast strategy Chris Jones said many UHD TVs would not be able to handle 4K sports content. He said that’s because current UHD TVs can only broadcast 4K at 25 frames per second (fps). Action-filled sports, he said, possibly needs up to as much as 100fps.

Perhaps trying to create fear, uncertainty and doubt about 4K, especially live sports in 4K, Jones is quoted in an article at as saying, “If you bought a [4K TV] set in 2013 and early 2014, then sorry, it won’t do sports. It’ll only go up to 25 frames per second. If you bought a set last year, even a set in the sales this summer, this spring, then I’m sorry, it won’t do High Dynamic Range, which gives you better, brighter pictures.” Perhaps he was trying to communicate that consumers should not buy a UHD set on which to watch BT’s shiny new 4K sports channel until Sky has time to catch up.

Jones’ negativity about sports broadcasting in 4K is a direct reflection of his company being caught by surprise by the sudden emergence of 4K’s popularity. Sky is not the only pay TV service that’s been caught totally by surprise by 4K’s swift ascendency. Most every pay TV service in the world is in the same boat – on their heels when it comes to 4K, which has given OTT services an opportunity to fill the vacuum they have left.

Ask for the article in the current edition no. 933: “4K Caught Pay TV Services by Surprise”

Many industry watchers would have thought that a satellite-based pay TV service such as Sky would offer 4K channels before a wireline pay TV service such as BT. It’s hard to call a monolith like BT a start-up, but it is when BT’s TV service is the topic. BT was just hungrier for 4K sports to give it an big edge over Sky. It is probably too late for Sky to offer its sports channels in 4K in 2015.

Like other nay sayers, Sky’s chief engineer has underestimated makers of UHD TV sets and their ability to handle challenges to their technology. Jones’ comments sound like sour grapes because rival BT beat it to broadcasting 4K. It’s a lesson that pay TV services worldwide should learn because OTT services with…

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The Online Reporter is the weekly subscription-based strategy bulletin about the enabling technologies of broadband, Wi-Fi, HDR, home networks, UHD 4K TV & OTT services; identifying trends in the Digital Media space. Only a fraction of our material here is published here. To see 4 free copies, follow the links above or go to

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