Your Inside Connections

Someone once asked me, “Why 4K TV?”

Well, in short, 4K, or UHD (Ultra High Definition), is one of the most exciting developments in recent memory. 

And it’s been this tech nerd’s dream all year. 

Why? Let me give you a little personal history. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in live television for 25 years. I was part of some of the most innovative production efforts when FOX Sports started back in 1994. I learned at the feet of David Hill, a crazy Aussie, who could motivate a sandwich to make itself. 

David’s voice is still in my head screaming we have to be better, work harder to be better, and bring the newest technology to the customer, to “tell a better story.” Period.  It’s all about setting the drama and delivering the goods.

As time marched on, I was part of the start of HD in live sports that quickly redefined the way millions of people consumed television. A new standard in audio – Dolby Digital 5.1 – came with it, and the sky was the limit.

I’m the guy who buys the newest tech – watches, phones, computers – you name it. If someone thinks it’s cool, it’s on my list. This may not be the smartest savings plan, but my curiosity to have the latest and greatest tech has served me well in my career.

That’s where 4K UHD comes in. 

Technology that delivers 4x the resolution of HD? I’m in! Where do I buy a set?

No matter what it costs, I’ll figure out how to pay for it. Despite my wife’s objections, I was one of the early adopters and haven’t looked back. 

And what’s more important, AT&T is looking forward. We’re setting a path for 4K TV with a focus on live sports. It’s about telling that “better story” to our more than 26 million video customers. 

Don’t take my word for it. Experience it. The pine tar on a baseball bat… It’s so vivid you can almost feel it sticking to your fingers. The crowd at a game… Well, they might want to have better manners while they eat their hot dogs – because there’s no denying whose mustard-streaked face is behind home plate.

The grass is greener, the action is better defined, and tension – both in the dramatic world and live sport – is clearly on display. It’s the sweat you can feel on your own skin.

We started our live coverage of The Masters at Augusta National in April earlier this year, and have steadily added events – MLB, UFC, PGA, and the Rio Olympics. To date, we’ve broadcast more than 500 hours of great sports content in 4K, most of it live.

And there’s a lot more on the way.

We’re about to showcase another live sporting event in 4K this weekend – the World Series of Beach Volleyball. What better way to capture the drama of every stuff, dig or dink? It may be a small court, but it’s big and complex production effort.

So that tech nerd in me feels obliged to give you a few facts about 4K UHD production and how we deliver the goods:

  • We use both fiber and satellite for transmission from the event with internet protocol as a transport method with encode bit rates up to 80mbps.
  • We deploy 8 to 14 4K cameras depending on the size of the event.
  • The 4K files are huge. One hour of 4K UHD video equals 400-500 gigabytes (GB). Not exactly video you can store on your 128 GB cell phone.
  • Footage for an average baseball game can use up about 2 terabytes of storage or around 500 GBs per hour. That equals about 1,500 CDs in capacity.
  • Routing and bandwidth are some of our biggest challenges due to the size of the signal. But no problem for the viewer at home. We deliver it seamlessly and efficiently to their Genie set-top by satellite and ready to watch in all its 4K splendor. 

As you might have guessed by now, we couldn’t be more excited about the limitless future of 4K and TV technology. To be a part of the AT&T team that’s working on it is a dream come true.

What’s next? Who knows. But let’s dream some more… How great would an NFL game would look in 4K? 

In the meantime, seeing is believing. So if you have 4K compatible equipment, please tune in to the AT&T presentation of the World Series of Beach Volleyball live from Long Beach, Calif., Aug. 26 to Aug. 28. It’s only on DIRECTV, channel 106, and this event is available to 4K customers with the SELECT and above packages.  Please visit http://www.directv.com/4K for more details.

We think you’ll agree it’s a great story, told even better in 4K. 

John Ward is AT&T's senior vice president of Content Operations based at our Los Angeles Broadcast Center

John Ward
John Ward AT&T's Senior Vice President of Content Operations