DirecTV CEO: 4K Rollout Will Be ‘Complex’

But Satellite TV Provider Is ‘Going To Be Ready’ When 4K Market Develops

DirecTV will be ready to support 4K video if and when the eye-popping format becomes a winner among consumers, but company chairman and CEO president Mike White said he is cognizant that an entire ecosystem must come together before 4K will take off.

A “very complex rollout” would be needed for  4K, White said on DirecTV’s third quarter earnings call on Tuesday, describing his discussion with content players and distributors that will be trying to figure out how many resources to apply toward 4K strategies, and when, after some got “burnt” on 3D.

In June 2012, DirecTV downgraded its n3D channel to a part-time special events channel. In fact, n3D is no longer promoted on DirecTV’s 3DTV Web page. ESPN announced in June that it would shut down its 3DTV network at the end of the year

“After the experience with 3D, I think there’s a level of – I don’t want to say cautiousness  – but protect your options, because it’s a very complex rollout that would be required,” he said, pointing out the need for a new TV, set-top, and advanced compression technologies.

“Everybody’s working on pieces of that, and I do think you will see a little bit more of it next year…but you’re still talking [about] very, very few homes in America that would have a TV capable of that. But we are working on it,” White said.

He didn’t specify when DirecTV would launch 4K services of its own, but White said it would likely be 2015 or 2016 before there would be “any kind of material impact” in terms of when all the piece parts would come together.

“We’ll continue to innovate, and we hope to be there first with the best experience, the best sound and the best picture, as we always have, and that’s our commitment,” White said.

And the extent of that commitment remains unknown. But DirecTV is clearly giving 4K a lot of thought. As reported by FierceCable in February, DirecTV filed several 4K-related trademarks, including 4KN, 4KNET, 4KNetwork, 4K Network and 4K.

Early on, broadband-based, over-the-top downloading services have taken the early lead on 4K content distribution. Sony launched a proprietary 4K video download service earlier this year, and Odemax, a service that’s focused on independent films, has begun to test a 4K download service as well.

Netflix, meanwhile, has begun to test a small batch of 4K clips as it prepares to launch a 4K offering sometime in 2014.

On the cable front, Comcast has demonstrated its technical readiness for 4K.  CableLabs, meanwhile, has several 4K projects underway, including consumer research activities.