TV Answer Man, I bought a 4K TV two years ago and it seems like there’s less and less 4K programming than ever. How can that be? Didn’t everyone promise that 4K programming would boom by now? Everyone I know has a 4K TV. What are they waiting for? — Ted, Marina Del Rey, California.
Ted, I agree that the amount of live and On-Demand 4K programming seems to be decreasing although the number of 4K TV homes is rising inexorably. The Covid-19 pandemic is one reason with the networks hamstrung by both local health restrictions and tightening budgets. It’s not as easy to produce a live 4K sporting event as it was before Covid. That’s why you didn’t see the 2020 Super Bowl in 4K (Fox did the 2019 game in 4K) or several other recent major events such as horse racing’s Triple Crown or the NBA and NHL playoffs.
But there’s more going on here to indicate that the TV industry has turned its back on the 4K audience. Despite repeated promises from network officials and TV providers that they would dramatically expand their 4K lineups, it hasn’t happened. In fact, most networks and TV providers (both streaming and cable) seem disinterested in catering to the expanding 4K universe.
* Peacock, the streaming service owned by Comcast/NBC Universal, launched in July 2020 and company officials said 4K programming was “on its roadmap.” Eleven months later, we can only assume the road is a long and winding one because Peacock has yet to offer a single title in 4K.
* HBO Max launched in May 2020 with officials saying that 4K was on its “roadmap,” too. However, to date, HBO Max’s 4K offerings have been few and far between, mostly the same-day theatrical releases from Warner Media. As of today, there are just a handful of movies in 4K on HBO Max: Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Those Who Wish Me Dead, and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.”
In February, Warner Media chief Jason Kilar told me that The Little Things, the same-day theatrical release starring Denzel Washington, would be in 4K, and “soon after that new release, expect a lot more 4K. We are in process on them….and will not stop,”
It certainly hasn’t been a lot more.
* YouTube TV said in February that it would soon add 4K programming. Four months later, we’re still waiting. FuboTV remains the only live streaming service that offers anything in 4K, and what FuboTV has in 4K isn’t much.
* Comcast last year suddenly became one of 4K’s biggest proponents, adding numerous college football and basketball games, NBA and NHL games, and MLB contests in the format, among other programming. But the cable operator seems to have hit the brakes on 4K, and didn’t even air this month’s French Open tournament in 4K, although it did last year. Comcast also had been offering regional MLB, NHL and NBA action in 4K, but stopped in May and did not respond to our inquiry asking why.
Update: Comcast has confirmed it will air next month’s Summer Olympics games from Tokyo in 4K.
* Charter, the nation’s second largest cable operator, does not offer anything in 4K. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
* ESPN, which was a leader (albeit an unsuccessful one) in pushing 3D TV several years ago, has slowed its 4K productions as well. Although the network provided numerous college football and basketball games in 4K last year (and early this year), it has yet to do a 2021 MLB game in 4K. Fox hasn’t either. Covid is a contributing cause here, but if both Fox and ESPN could do live events in 4K in 2020, there’s no reason why they can’t do so in 2021 when many local health restrictions have been eased.
DIRECTV is a rare TV service that has actually expanded its 4K offering with coverage of both national and regional sporting events. (It’s the only U.S. service that’s doing the French Open in 4K.) And you can still find some 4K programming on streaming VOD services such as Netflix and Amazon, among others.
But overall, it’s a disappointing time to be a 4K TV owner, particularly one who paid well over a thousand dollars for a 4K set with so little on it in 4K. The easy answer is that this will improve once the pandemic becomes a bad memory. But the fact that so many TV companies are refraining from adding 4K where Covid shouldn’t be an issue is concerning. It makes me wonder if they have decided that the added expense of producing an event in 4K, or processing a HD title for 4K, simply isn’t worth it.
Ted, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann