Sky moots German 4K service

Sky could launch a 4K TV service in Germany at the end of this year or the beginning of next, according to Stephan Heimbecher, head of innovation and strategy, Sky Deutschland.

Speaking at the SES Ultra HD conference in London yesterday, Heimbecher said Sky would address the million plus 4K-capable devices already in the market at the end of this year or early next year with a service. He said no decision had yet been taken on how this service would be commercialised.

Heimbecher said that the live aspect of UHD was currently Sky Deutschland’s focus – particularly sports.

“It took us a year and a half to do a live broadcast at 50 frames per second. HEVC [the advanced compression standard required for 4K services] is a relatively young standard and it will take a while to be implemented, especially for real time encoding at higher resolution – in this case UHD-1,” he said.

UHD-1 represents the first phase of the emerging ITU standard for ultra-HD services, encompassing resolution without other elements seen as crucial to the future of the format such as higher dynamic colour range.

Heimbecher said Sky Deutschland achieved real-time encoding of 4K with two encoder manufacturers in April last year. “Since then we have been focused on fine-tuning,” he said.

“We have been in a position to do live production with UHD since the middle of last year. Right now it is only the higher resolution we can address and there is a question of how to give real added value to the consumer.”

Heimbecher said that there were already consumers out there with expectations about 4K and it is important not to disappoint them. “There is a difference between what you see at a trade show and what you seen in live broadcasts. There is also scepticism because 3D didn’t deliver,” he said.