Widgets Magazine

DirecTV Brings You 4K…Kinda

It seems to have slipped through the cracks that a few weeks back DirecTV announced they would be providing 4K television to its subscribers. That is honestly very big news for those that hold fast to the argument that there is no content available, thus making 4K not worth the investment as we find ourselves in the middle of the holiday season and the purchasing/upgrading of electronic devices. At least, that was until you dug into the details as to how exactly they are bringing that 4K television to your home.
As has been discussed by many of those throughout the industry, the national infrastructure will have extreme difficulty supporting 4K content in a broadcast format. As there are also only a small percentage of early adopters of 4K displays, the investment in providing specific 4K channels, as cable providers do with standard definition vs. HDTV currently, hasn’t shown to be profitable at this point in time. So, DirecTV is clearly trying to get ahead of the game, but how are they doing it?
The key, and cleverly hidden, part of their announcement is that this will not be live 4K broadcasting that will be coming to you in your home. Instead they are going to use the DirecTV box as they would a DVR and utilize the network connectivity there to download the content for later playback. Yup, this means that your 4K sports package still doesn’t exist folks.
If you’d like me to get into the implications this could have as it is happening pre-FCC regulation on net neutrality, I could, but effectively this will be no different than the argument about how Netflix will bring 4K to your home, so I don’t see the need to rehash it, yet again. Besides, there is a second part to this DirecTV story that’s an even bigger part of the discussion; they aren’t using HDMI to get the signal from their box to your TV.
Due to the fact that the HDMI connectivity is likely not HDMI 2.0, which will, according to specification, support 4K signals, both display manufacturers and DirecTV have the difficulty of trying to move that signal from a stored format to a viewable format. Instead, this 4K signal coming out of your DirecTV box will only be supported by certain Samsung displays and connected via network patch cable to a proprietary connection.
They have skirted around the limited bandwidth of HDMI by providing an alternative proprietary connection at your display. I just had to restate this for the implication of future development. If it’s a proprietary connection, how will this affect your ability to upgrade equipment in the future? Will it be more than Samsung providing this connection as we move forward? Will it support HDCP 2.2, which as we learned last month is not backwards compatible?
We are still in the early days of 4K and content providers are trying to find ways to take advantage of this burgeoning market of early adopters. I applaud them for their efforts, but wish an increasing amount of ill will towards their marketing teams for burying the most pertinent information about how the signals are reaching the home, as well as the severe limitations of who can take advantage of this new offering.
This brings me back to the need we have in AV for public advocacy. Technology is an exciting thing for a lot of people. They see the bright and shiny devices and want to get involved in them as early as possible because the features are new and cool and many of us in the industry share their excitement.
AVWeek has featured the topic of providing home automation to the masses several times in the last few weeks, and the conversation always turns back to how people might not want to make that move for a wide variety of reasons. So where are the AV professionals reaching out to the public to help them understand exactly what all of this is – and not to the benefit of their business?
Education and understanding are the breeding grounds for success. This industry desperately needs to put figures in the public eye to help them understand the benefits of what it is our technology provides them in their homes and businesses, as well as helping them understand what these newly announced and released products are going to actually mean to them.

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