Foxtel to launch Australia's first 4k channel
AUSTRALIANS will finally be able to tune into next-generation television broadcasts later this year after pay-TV provider Foxtel revealed plans to launch the country's first 4K channel today.
And Australian cricket fans will be among the first to benefit from the huge jump in TV resolution, with the company planning to shoot all Australian Tests, One Day Internationals, and selected Big Bash matches in 4K for the first time.
The live cricket matches will be broadcast alongside documentaries, concert specials, and feature films on the dedicated 4K channel, which will be broadcast to satellite subscribers using Foxtel's iQ4 set-top box that has been secretly rolled out to customers since February this year.
Foxtel's new channel will follow increasing 4K TV sales in Australia, and 4K broadcast trials by FreeTV and Broadcast Australia, though experts warned 4K free-to-air TV broadcasts were still years from launch.
Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany unveiled the company's move into 4K yesterday, calling the new broadcast "the next chapter in the ultimate viewing and content experience".
"From today, any set-top box sold by Foxtel will be 4K-enabled, so get ready to see content like never before," he said.
"And from October, Foxtel will launch Australia's first ever 4K channel."
Currently, Australians can only access 4K content - offering four times the pixels of high-definition video - from 4K
Blu-ray Discs, or online services including Stan and Netflix.
But Mr Delany said streaming services were only useful if a user's broadband connection delivered a consistently high speed, leaving it out of the reach of many Australians.
"For the odd episode or the odd movie, streaming might be okay," he said.
"It's never guaranteed in terms of delivery so you will never see live sport over the internet in 4K. Picture quality is
absolutely dependent upon the speed and consistency of your home internet."
The new Foxtel channel would screen the Australia vs South Africa Test Match in 4K on November 4, Mr Delany said, but the company would also investigate broadcasting "selected rugby league" matches in future, and importing 4K sports content from overseas such as Formula One and Wimbledon.
Foxtel satellite users who subscribe to its Sports and HD packages will be able to view the new 4K channel, and users will also need access to a 4K-compatible television to see the difference in the broadcasts.
But Harvey Norman audio visual general manager Ajay Calpakam said Aussies were already embracing the new screen resolution and buying 4K-ready screens as large as 75 inches.
"I see growth in televisions based on these 4K broadcasts because people can visually see the difference," Mr Calpakam said.
"Now you know that the content is coming out there, that will make shoppers change their mind and upgrade their TV."
LG marketing general manager Angus Jones said the arrival of 4K broadcasting in Australia would also give
customers certainty that they could make full use of their new 4K screens.
"We've had Netflix in 4K for almost three years but this comes with surety," he said.
"It also gives us the opportunity to see live 4K, which we haven't seen before."
Foxtel's new 4K TV broadcast was announced just two months after Broadcast Australia and FreeTV completed 4K broadcast tests in Sydney.
While the trials were successful, FreeTV chief executive Bridget Fair said engineers were still analysing data collected from the trials and it could be years before 4K broadcasts were adopted by free-to-air providers.
She said a transition to 4K broadcasts should be significantly shorter than the 12 years to move from analog to digital TV, however.
"It's all very early days," she said. "There's a lot of moving parts before we know what the timeframes are and what the pathway is."