New 4K TV Content: What to Expect

new 4k tv programming

Retail executives are dreaming of a 4K Christmas. Owners and managers at consumer electronics stores across the country are expecting sales of 4K TVs to spike over the holidays, giving them a much-desired boost in profits. The Consumer Electronics Association has projected that U.S. 4K sales will grow 210 percent to reach 4.4 million by the end of 2015, generating $5.3 billion in revenue — double that of last year. And Strategy Analytics predicts that half of all American homes will have a 4K TV by 2020.

Of course, all this growth presumes there will be more 4K content available to consume. Right now, 4K content is relatively scarce compared to other formats, but availability is growing daily. Here are a few places to look if you’re searching for 4K content.

Getting Set up for 4K

To appreciate 4K content, you first need a screen capable of producing 4K resolution. Some of the most popular makes and models include:

  • Samsung’s JS9000 Curved 48-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV and JS8500 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV. Both use quantum dot technology for high brightness and color contrast and cost in the range of $1,500 to $3,500.
  • Top models from LG Electronics, Sony and Sharp also run in the range of $1,500 to $5,000
  • At the high end of the range is Samsung’s SUHD JS9500 Curved 4K Ultra HD LCD 65-inch TV, which runs from $4,500 to $20,000.
  • If you’re looking for something under $1,500, leading options include the VIZIO M-Series 4K Ultra HD Smart LED HDTV 43-80 inch, the LG Electronics 49UB8200 49-Inch 4K Ultra HD 60Hz Smart LED TV and the Samsung UN40JU6500 40-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV.

Receiving 4K Broadcasting

This January, Samsung took the initiative to begin getting network broadcasters on board with 4K, forming the UHD Alliance in conjunction with Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, Technicolor, Dolby and a coalition of content broadcasters. Since then, the BBC seems to have taken an early lead in adopting 4K, telling the Financial Times that it will likely be using a 4K standard by 2016 and announcing Europe’s first 4K channel, BT Sport Ultra HD, this June.

Meanwhile, in the U.S.:

  • CBS purchased eight Sony 4K cameras in April and began using them on sets in June.
  • In June, CBS’ Showtime premium channel also announced the launch of a streaming service, which seems to herald forthcoming 4K content.
  • NBC tested 4K cameras during a Sunday Night Football broadcast of a Cardinals-Raiders preseason game this August, comparing Sony, Grass Valley and I-MOVIX cameras.
  • In September, FOX, a founding member of the UHD Alliance, announced a commitment to make some of its movies available in 4K ultra HD in time for the launch of Samsung’s Ultra HD Blu-ray players early next year.
  • In 2014, Disney-ABC expressed reluctance to enter the 4K market, but now that Disney has also joined the UHD Alliance, this seems likely to change.
  • Warner Brothers is a founding partner of the UHD alliance, but so far Time Warner’s HBO subsidiary says it is investigating 4K video support but does not currently offer it.

To receive 4K content broadcast by any of these networks or others, you will need to subscribe to a TV provider that supports 4K. DISH Network has taken a lead in supporting 4K by releasing the 4K Joey receiver, which enables users to connect their 4K TV to DISH’s Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR System.

Streaming 4K

Most 4K content is currently available in streaming form. Some of the major streaming providers currently offering 4K content include Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, YouTube, UltraFlix, PlayStation Video, M-GO and Vudu. For the best of both worlds in 4k streaming and live 4k programming, DISH also integrates Netflix into its user interface with the Hopper.

4K on Disc

The release of ultra HD Blu-ray players is imminent and had previously been expected in time for the holiday shopping season. However, while Panasonic has begun shipping players to Japan, the U.S. release for Panasonic and Samsung’s players seems to have been pushed back to 2016, according to Consumer Reports.