DirecTV 4K Bird Takes Flight

Following a brief weather-induced delay, an Arianespace rocket containing a new satellite that will help to pave DirecTV’s 4K/Ultra HD future launched successfully Saturday (December 6) afternoon from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The Ariane 5 launch vehicle delivered the DirecTV-14 and GSAT-16 (for the Indian Space Research Organisation) satellites. A video of the launch is available here

DirecTV said controllers at the ground station at Hassan, India, made contact with its new satellite 28 minutes into the launch and confirmed that all systems are functioning properly. DirecTV-14 is expected to begin operations in the early second quarter of 2015.

DirecTV will use the new nearly seven-ton spacecraft to deliver 4K programming in the U.S., along with more HD for local markets. It will also serve as a backup for DirecTV’s existing fleet of six HD satellites. Another satellite, DirecTV-15, is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2015.

DirecTV said DirecTV-14 will be the first commercial satellite to use the Reverse Band Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) spectrum, providing additional capacity for the delivery of more 4K Ultra HD programming and other advanced services to DIRECTV customers across America including Alaska and Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

“We congratulate the launch team and our partners, Arianespace and SSL, on a picture-perfect launch,” said Phil Goswitz, senior vice president, Space and Communications, for DirecTV, in a statement. “Today we achieved a significant milestone in the development and future adoption of 4K Ultra HD and ensured our customers will have an entertainment experience that is second to none for many years to come.”

The launch, expected to play a key role as DirecTV’s prepares to offer its first batch of live 4K programming sometime next year, comes a few weeks after the satellite TV services provider became the first U.S.-based MVPD to launch a 4K offering. DirecTV’s initial effort, a streaming-only VOD service, stated off with nearly 30 titles from Paramount Pictures and K2 Communications, including Star Trek (2009), Transformers: Age Of Extinction, Dinosaurs  Alive!, Amistad and Forest Gump. DirecTV has tapped Elemental Technologies to support the video processing platform for the UHD VOD service. 

DirecTV competitor, Comcast, is expected to launch its first 4K service, a streaming app for Samsung-made TVs, before the end of 2014.