When will bars start showing 4K programming?

Well, first there has to be something to show. The big problem with Ultra HD 4K television here in 2016 is that there isn’t any content. TV manufacturers have done a decent job getting prices down to the point where 4K TVs seem impossibly cheap. There’s even a standard so you can buy with confidence. Pay TV companies like DIRECTV and DISH have the hardware, and DIRECTV has even spent millions of dollars to upgrade its satellite fleet to make sure there’s plenty of 4K capacity.

But alas, no 4K content.

Major sporting events are being shot in 4K right now. So are movies. But they’re not being distributed that way. In order for people to tune to a 4K channel, it’s pretty simple: there has to be a 4K channel. And there isn’t. Those sports events captured in 4K are sampled down to HD before broadcast. 4K movies are available on pay-per-view, but none of the premium services have even one 4K channel. Don’t expect a joint partnership with DIRECTV or DISH like we saw with 3D — everyone took a bath on 3D equipment and content because people just didn’t want it. No one wants to potentially repeat a mistake like that.

I’m pretty confident that someone will have live 4K content in the coming 12 months. At that point, it just becomes a matter of getting it to bars and restaurants. Right now, DIRECTV’s only 4K products are its Genie HR54 and C61K, and bar owners are prevented from getting them due to their DVR components (which can’t be used in public spaces for fear of angering those big content companies.) I have a feeling that will change, and that there will be a 4K solution for commercial customers in the coming months. Maybe we’ll see it at the annual Revolution show for DIRECTV dealers, taking place in April this year.

Yes, I believe it will all come together if you’re just a little more patient. In the meantime, my best advice for bar owners is to get 4K televisions that are certified as HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2, because those are the minimum technical requirements that both DIRECTV and DISH are putting on televisions before they’ll show 4K content. Without those, you may as well have just sprung for the HDTV.