Sky Germany: 4K and upbeat on results

Sky Deutschland last week carried a test transmission of a Bundesliga football match in Ultra-HD. The match, between Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen, was carried on an Astra satellite on April 26th, and carried at 50 fps and using the new High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) compression algorithm. Six 4K cameras were used and another 4 HDTV cameras had their signals upconverted to Ultra-HDTV.

Brian Sullivan, Sky Deutschland’s CEO, said: “By successfully broadcasting a complete Bundesliga match live in what was a true end-to-end test of the full Ultra HD production chain, it is clear that the day is getting closer when it will be possible to bring a top quality Ultra HD live sports production into consumers’ living rooms. There are still a few things to take care of, but I am very confident that we as the innovation leader, along with our partners, are on a very good path to revolutionising the viewing experience.”

Sullivan’s colleague Euan Smith (EVP/Product & Operations) a month ago and speaking at MIPtv’s special 4K week at the Cannes programming market, said Sky Deutschland would have a test channel on air later this year. Asked what this work would lead to, Smith said there was much more Ultra-HD than just a soccer game or two, however important they were to subscribers. “I think it will go in much the same way as HDTV did initially. I expect we will see a few showcase events on a channel, which will grow to a channel that has a lot of looping of content. Over time I can see this migrating to 3, 4 or 5 channels and perhaps more. We at Sky Deutschland are not the entire broadcasting chain. We can have test broadcasts during 2014 I think, but the conversations we are having [with content providers] are not just about more pixels on the screen, but better pixels. This is all about colour gamut, and an improved bit-rate, and when this is pulled together you end up delivering a fantastically immersive experience. There is still a lot to do, and we are quite some way away from seeing HEVC decoders in the marketplace, and obviously set-top boxes have to be rolled out. So, to answer your question I suspect end-2015 might be a good time. But whatever we do we must ‘Wow’ the public.”

Sullivan might well say more on the subject tomorrow (May 7th) when the broadcaster unveils its latest results. Investment bankers Morgan Stanley is expecting Q1 net additions of some 55,000, lowered churn (from 11.2 per cent to 10.9 per cent) and well on its way t5o 400,000-450,000 net new DTH additions this year.

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