BT Beat Sky To 4K With 8K In Its Sights

​BT has beaten Sky to the punch by announcing the UK and Europe’s first 4K sports channel but does it also have 8K in its sights?

Launching August, the channel will only be available to BT Infinity customers who have a 4K TV and a new BT TV Ultra HD set top box.

The first match to be shown live on the channel will be the Community Shield between Chelsea and Arsenal with a raft of fixtures to follow from properties including UEFA Champions League, FA Cup, Barclays Premier League and Aviva Premiership Rugby.

The BT Sport Ultra HD channel will need a new YouView+ set top box. BT is a founder member of the YouView consortium. The new STB will have 1TB of storage, enough for 600 hours of SD recording, or 250 hours of HD content.

Sky also has a new STB in the works, thought capable of 4K and with a strong emphasis on cloud storage and multi-screen in home delivery.

Sky Deutschland, now part of the merged Sky empire in Europe, has been most public in its live trials of 4K, earmarking the millionth UHD-ready TV sale in the market as the starting point for a full-scale launch in 2016.

The broadcaster airing the Champions League final live in UHD in a trial run to 13 Sky Sports Bars in Germany last Saturday.

Back to BT which also announced that it will offer 351 matches from the Champions League and Europa League from next season which BT TV customer's will get for free. It will be housed on a new channel called BT Sport Europe.

BT paid £897 million for CL coverage which was originally split between Sky and ITV. BT will show some matches for free (for non- BT TV customers) on a third new channel called BT Sport Showcase.

BT has been testing 4K live production since 2013 when it trialled a live rugby match between Saracens and Gloucester and shown at IBC. It was transmitted via fibre and satellite, and decoded in real time with partners BT Media and Broadcast, Ericsson, Sony and Newtec.

BT Media & Broadcast also provided the 4K UHD production and transmission solution to Star India’s DTH playout affiliates in India for the recent 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia.

The planned keynote on how BT sees the future of broadcasting by BT TV CEO Delia Bushell at the IBC 2015 Conference takes on even greater significance with today's news. a headline presentation on how BT sees the future of broadcasting.

Outside broadcasters Arena Television and Telegenic hold the contracts to provide facilities for BT Sport’s coverage of Premiership football and rugby union matches.

According to Jamie Hindaugh, BT Sport's COO:  “The really valuable thing about 4K is that the camera positions don't need to change from HD. With the next evolution of equipment there is a real opportunity to capture in 4K and down-rez for HD which does give you an enhanced look on screen.

“There are a lot of challenges.The frame rate we are looking for is 50fps and we're hoping with the new generation of cameras and lenses coming in July that any depth of field focus issues and motion blur will be mitigated.”

Could BT have its eyes on 8K?

Later this year Arena plans to drive into production a new 4K scanner which the company bills as 8K-ready.

“Arena attended NAB with a view to fine-tuning our designs for OBX a triple-expand current in build by ASGB, slated to hit the road towards the end of 2015,” explained Arena managing director, Richard Yeowart. “Whilst many broadcasters aren’t in a rush to roll-out 4K, it is clearly the next step and the infrastructure we use is also designed to cope with 8K once the equipment arrives.”

Japanese broadcaster NHK is powering ahead with 8K broadcast plans timed for 2020 and the Tokyo Olympic Games, announcing that it will test 8K at the current FIFA Women's World Cup, next year's Super Bowl and Major League Baseball games.

EE compete with GoPro

Also intriguing is the announcement that mobile operator EE, which BT is in the process of acquiring for £12.5bn, has bringing to market a GoPro-style 4K camera.

Users will need to pay EE for the required 4G connectivity to stream footage to the internet.

The 4GEE Action Cam is the first in a range of own-brand connected devices that it planned to release this year.

"We understand our customers not only want superfast coverage, they want products that give them the very best experiences, coupled with the most innovative and exciting ways in which to share them," said EE CEO Olaf Swantee.

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