Comcast Serves Up A Taste Of 4K

Philadelphia -- With the launch of its own 4K app on new Samsung Ultra HD sets still out on the horizon, Comcast offered a glimpse of the video future here Wednesday (February 19) during an invitation-only Olympics viewing party held here at its corporate headquarters.

Comcast showed two examples of 4K/Ultra HD video-on-demand clips running on its QAM video network to a curved, 55-inch Samsung 4K TV (shown at left) that’s expected to debut this spring, and an IP version running over its DOCSIS 3.0 network to a 20-inch Panasonic tablet (pictured up top).

Both VOD streams were encoded in HEVC/H.265, a codec that promises to be about 50% more efficient than MPEG-4/H.264. Execs here said the QAM VOD 4K feed absorbed about the same space required for a regular HD channel. The IP version was delivered to a new D3 gateway (internally referred to  as the “XB3”) that’s capable of bonding 16 downstream channels and is outfitted with a dual-band (2.4GHz and 5.0GHz) 802.11n router. Comcast estimated that the 4K IP video stream was coming in at between 18 Mbps to 22 Mbps.

According to Comcast, NBC Sports has been producing portions of the Olympics events in 4K, and then shipping 25-minute segments to the Comcast Media Center in Centennial, Colo., which, in turn, has been cutting them down to five-to-ten-minute looped segments and distributing those files to via Comcast’s production network for use at the 4K viewing parties. Comcast also showed off 4K at Olympics viewing events in Washington, D.C., on February 7, and in San Francisco on February 12.

Comcast is demonstrating its 4K capabilities ahead of the launch of a 4K VOD app that will debut later this year on new Samsung 4K TVs and deliver content over the customer’s high-speed Internet connection.

Comcast is developing a new line of devices for its X1 platform with HEVC that can decode native 4K signals. Those are expected out later this year.

The MSO also used the event to show off other new services and apps in action, with an emphasis on the X1 and the set-top integration of the NBC Sports Live Extra app, which is offering live and on-demand streaming and other elements from the Winter Olympics. That app, alongside those from Facebook, Pandora and Instagram, and others, were among the batch that are being offered on X1 via the box's Internet connection. The X1 platform also features a suite of native apps that will eventually include Comcast’s Xfinity Home service.

Comcast also put together an Olympics-themed package for the biggest screen in the building – the 83-feet-by-25-feet Comcast Experience video wall that's situated in the lobby.