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Australian Broadcasters Drop The Ball As 4K Spreads Worldwide

As overseas sports broadcasters continue to offer content in 4K ultra high-definition, Australian networks are falling behind.

In the US over the weekend, two Premier League games were broadcast in 4K in a partnership between NBC Sports and pay TV provider DirecTV. Selected games will also be broadcast for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile in Australia, broadcasters have yet to announce any plans for 4K, with one free-to-air network still struggling to even offer HD. The ABC revived their HD channel in December last year, while Channel Seven has not yet fully committed to broadcasting their main channel in HD to all capital cities.

4K displays were expected to account for 56% of TV sales in the US during the fourth quarter of 2016 according to data from the Consumer Technology Association. Retailers and manufacturers in Australia expect 4K TVs will make up a similar proportion of sales.

It is the pay TV providers that are leading the push for 4K in countries like the US and the UK, with sports coverage a key highlight of their offerings. UK pay TV providers BT Sport and Sky have been broadcasting Premier League games in 4K since as early as 2015, while the US partnership between NBC Sports and DirecTV saw select 4K content broadcast from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Optus, the current Premier League rights-holder in Australia, was not able to provide concrete details to ChannelNews on when it would begin offering 4K coverage, and said it “continually reviews new technologies and ways to improve customer experience when watching content through our Premier League service.”

“We are interested in 4K streaming and the quality it offers, and think it is an exciting possibility for the future,” an Optus spokesperson said.

Foxtel, the previous rights-holder to the premier league and current broadcaster of the AFL and the NRL, has also not revealed any plans to begin broadcasting sport or any other content in 4K.

“While Foxtel is always exploring new ways to deliver our programming, [we] don’t have any updates on 4K at the moment,” a Foxtel spokesperson told ChannelNews.

In the meantime, viewers looking for 4K content will have to turn to Netflix, the recently launched Amazon Prime Video, or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

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