Comcast Tees Up 4K Box, Bigger 4K Service

Diving more deeply into the 4K video pool, Comcast announced Wednesday that it will launch a 4K/Ultra HD set-top later this year alongside the launch of an expanded lineup of 4K content.

The box, called the Xi4, will run on Comcast’s cloud-based, IP-capable X1 platform, enabling customers to create “virtual 4K linear channels” via MSO’s UHD library. A version of the Xi4  from Cisco Systems was spotted passing through the FCC in January.

Comcast said it also developing the Xi5, a device that will support high dynamic range (HDR), an emerging format that supports a wider palette of colors and more brighter pixels. HDR will apply to both HD and 4K content.

On the content end, Comcast said it will offer “hundreds” of titles via an Xfinity in UHD catalog/library that will feature films and other content produced for IMAX from K2 Communications and Havoc TV, full current seasons of TV shows such as SyFy’s Defiance, USA’s Playing House, Satisfaction and Suits, and original fare from Starz, including Outlander and Power. 4K content will be encoded in the bandwidth-saving HEVC/H.265 format and delivered to the Xi4 via Comcast's managed VOD service, an official confirmed. 

"With Xfinity in UHD, our customers can easily and seamlessly enjoy some of the best 4K programming available today as part of their subscription with no additional equipment or costs," said Matt Strauss, EVP and GM of video service for Comcast Cable, in a statement. "We are committed to providing the highest-quality entertainment experiences across platforms and our next-generation set-top boxes deliver on that promise—providing our customers with UHD and HDR programming on the biggest screen in the home."

Comcast entered the 4K era late last year with the launch of an on-demand streaming app that’s initially available on 2014 Samsung UHD TV and provides access to a small, free content library.

DirecTV was the first U.S. MVPD to launch a UHD service. Dish Network is expected to launch a 4K service later this year in tandem with the debut of the 4K Ultra HD Joey box, which was unveiled in January at the Consumer Electronics Show.

They are all getting into the 4K game amid UHD services from OTT players such as Netflix, M-GO and Amazon.