When DIRECTV went 4K

Do you remember the excitement back in April, 2016 when DIRECTV announced the first ever live 4K channels? It’s impossible to underestimate the excitement. No other provider had even one live 4K channel. DIRECTV had three. Certainly this was proof that the 4K revolution was starting in earnest.

And now in 2021

OK, let’s try to put a good spin on this. In 2021, DIRECTV has seen a 60% increase in the amount of live 4K content! OK, even I think that’s a little hard to swallow. As of today, there are now three channels of free live content (up from two) and two pay-per-view 4K channels (up from one.) I guess by the numbers that’s pretty good but, I also think we all agree it’s a bit disappointing too.

The only thing that really makes this bitter pill go down easier is the face that no other provider even has one 4K channel yet. I think that there have been a lot of surprises in the last two years. Of course, this isn’t really the biggest one… but still you have to admit that it’s surprising that this is where we are now with 4K.

What happened?

You certainly can’t blame AT&T. They did their part. They launched two massive satellites, two of the largest communications satellites ever launched. They made room for hundreds of live 4K channels. They even set out to acquire their own content so they could prime the market with their own channels.

No friends, the fault lies in those national content providers who aren’t doing a whole lot with 4K. We were expecting Comcast to jump into 4K with the channels they owned in 2020, as part of a giant push to get Olympics content out there. So far, even though the Olympics are back on, we haven’t heard a lot about a 4K experience.

There also hasn’t been so much as a peep from Disney or Discovery. Both of them seem to want to spend all their time developing their own paid streaming experience instead of caring for the millions of existing customers who pay for their content already. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t seem incredibly fair to me.

4K over-the-air didn’t materialize

Another thing that many people expected by this time in our lives is that 4K over-the-air television would be a reality. Despite jumping forward with never-before-seen speed back in 2017, the rollout of  the next generation of over-the-air broadcast, just plain stopped. Blame the pandemic if you want. At this point we are realistically over five years from widespread adoption of 4K over-the-air television, if it ever happens.

If 4K had taken over local broadcasts, it would have created an opportunity for a massive amount of 4K content on DIRECTV, much as the coming of HD in the late ’00s brought a ton of new channels to satellite.

Will I be writing this same article in five years?

Look, I hope not. But after almost a decade of being promised 4K, I’m beginning to feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick a football. I bet you are too. It’s frustrating, but at least we’re all in it together.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.