DIRECTV going all in for 4K Olympics Coverage

If you’ve upgraded to DIRECTV 4K you’ll be thrilled to know that there’s going to be a lot more content in the coming weeks. DIRECTV’s channel 106 will have plenty of 4K, according to a recent report in Variety. NBC is making 4K coverage available on a 2.5 hour delay to DIRECTV, DISH, and Comcast subscribers with the right hardware.

Of course for DIRECTV you’ll need that HR54 DVR and C61K 4K Genie Mini, while DISH subscribers will need a Hopper 3 and 4K Joey. Comcasters who have the latest X1 platform and compatible TVs will also be able to get 4K coverage.

DIRECTV goes above and beyond with an Olympics Mix channel as well, which will show live coverage from 8 HD channels at once (currently listed as NBC, NBCSN, Golf Channel, Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, NBC Universo and the USA Network.) These will be HD, not 4K, but they will be closer to the time the events are happening. Of course, NBC time-delays a lot of coverage so it fits into US primetime schedules, but that’s nothing new.

The Olympics kick off next week and go through August 21. NBC and the networks of NBC Universal have an exclusive contract to provide US viewers with Olympics coverage, and although NBC is owned by Comcast, they’re prohibited from offering Comcast any programming without making it available to other providers. That was part of the deal when Comcast bought NBC Universal.

So, personally, I think it all went down like this: We know that a lot of Olympics coverage is in 4K to begin with; this is just logical since most sporting events today use 4K cameras to make their coverage look better when you digitally zoom in. So NBC wanted to use this opportunity to look like a technology leader and show off the fact that their Comcast X1 platform can (theoretically) do 4K. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know it could, and some research has shown that there isn’t any live 4K on Comcast and there’s very little 4K at all.

In order to show off Comcast’s 4K, which was probably very important to them, they needed to also make the same content available to DIRECTV and DISH. I’m not quite sure why they couldn’t do 4K simulcasts, since they do this for Major League Baseball events with only about a five second delay, but so be it… DIRECTV does get this 4K coverage for channel 106, but they get it a few hours later.

It should be interesting to see if the Olympics really do anything to spur 4K adoption. There’s a decent amount of content on streaming that “calls itself” 4K but the truth is that the quality is more like HD Blu-ray. That’s not bad, but let’s be honest you’re looking for a little more from 4K. Only DIRECTV is capable of delivering full-bandwidth 4K over its satellite distribution and that means the best quality possible. So far, the 4K broadcasts I’ve seen have been really beautiful, and while you didn’t realize what you were missing, they make it hard to go back to “plain old” HD.

I’ve said it several times over the years that I’m not an Olympics fan but in this case I just might be convinced to try a little Olympics in 4K, at least the high-profile events. Guide data for channel 106 is just starting to populate now, so take a look and record what you want to see!