The BBC iPlayer platform is looking to offer Ultra HD video streams in the future but the 4K TV market isn't big enough yet to make it a priority.
Pocket-lint met the head of BBC iPlayer, Dan Taylor-Watt, at New Broadcasting House in London to check out new features coming to the existing apps for the service and talk turned to the future for the platform. One of the subjects was 4K programming, which is even more a hot topic of late since BT started broadcasting sports coverage in the high resolution format.
However, while the BBC has been carrying out its own tests for a while - last year's Commonwealth Games was filmed in 4K and trialled locally in Glasgow - it is not ready yet to add similar content to its hugely popular streaming service.
"We have done a couple of technical tests of 4K on iPlayer, partly to test the capabilities of different TVs and check how they’ve implemented the standards. So that’s something we’d like to have in the long term," Taylor-Watt explained. However, he also highlighted both the lack of viewers able to see 4K programming and the fragmentation of Ultra HD TV capabilities as immediate barriers for a more imminent rollout.
"Right now there’s still not a huge number of sets on the market," he said. "Unlike some of the TV manufacturers who put ‘4K’ in lights, for us it’s how we give people the best playback experience whatever the right technology is to achieve that."
That means the BBC is willing to bide its time before taking the Ultra HD plunge. It is exploring other facets of 4K video other than resolution, we were told, including high dynamic range, before it makes a decision on how to support the technology.
In the meantime it is rolling out a feature that many HD purists have wanted for some time. Connected TVs and set-top-boxes capable of HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) will either already have or will soon get the ability to set the quality of BBC iPlayer video in the player's settings rather than have to manually choose between HD or SD images each time a new programme plays. The player will instantly then choose the highest quality video stream depending on the bandwidth available.
And that could include 4K one day. Just not today.
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