Comcast has officially entered the 4K era.
Beating its end-of-the-year deadline, Comcast on Wednesday (December 18) launched Xfinity in UHD, a 4K streaming app that will initially be available on 2014 Samsung UHD TVs and provide free access to a set of TV shows from NBC and USA Network.
Comcast, which announced plans to launch the app at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, will start off with full current seasons USA’s Covert Affairs and NBC’s Chicago Fire, and will add Parks & Recreation to that list in February 2015.
Early on, shows delivered on demand via the Internet-delivered, authenticated streaming app, offered via Samsung’s SMART Hub, won’t include ads, but will allow viewers to set parental controls, enable closed captioning and manage audio preferences. Deluxe On Demand, which recently added more 4K-facing enhancements, also has a role as it provides the UHD workflow system and delivery and playback tech on 4K-enabled Samsung TVs.
Comcast said an Internet connection speed of 15 Mbps is required to view the programming in UHD, though customers will still be able to view that content using lower Internet speeds.
Comcast said it will make more on demand programming from multiple networks and studios available in 4K via the app later, and, sometime next year, will offer the Xfinity in UHD library on the MSO’s Xfinity TV Go TV Everywhere app and on new 4K-capable boxes that operate Comcast’s IP-capable X1 platform.
Comcast also noted that pay-TV customers with 2012 Samsung TV models or Android-powered Samsung Galaxy Tab tablets can also view “tens of thousands” of VOD choices via the Xfinity TV app.
“Our top priority is providing our customers with the best entertainment experiences, so we are excited to give them the opportunity to be among the first to enjoy current seasons of some of the most popular TV shows in pristine Ultra High-Definition,” said Matt Strauss, Comcast Cable’s SVP and GM of video services, in a statement. “Next year, we will not only debut the full Xfinity in UHD catalog across our Xfinity TV Go platforms for all customers to enjoy, but we will begin distributing a new X1 set-top box that will deliver 4K content.”
Comcast’s decision to offer a free taste of UHD content early differs from that of DirecTV, which recently launched about 30 VOD titles in the UHD format on a pay-per-view basis ($3.99 to $15.99 per title) to customers who have Samsung 4K sets and the satellite TV service provider’s Genie HD-DVR.
DirecTV and Comcast are the first two U.S. MVPDs to launch 4K offerings. On the OTT/digital-only front, Netflix opened its 4K library in April, M-GO added 4K to its platform in November, and, earlier this month, Amazon launched an offering that features a selection 4K titles that are available for free to Prime subscribers.