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BT TV: HDR in two years (maybe), 8K Ultra HD coming when it’s done

The head of BT TV and BT Sport has said that it could be up to two years before HDR lands on BT’s pay TV platform. 

Speaking at IBC 2015, BT’s Delia Bushell revealed that an upgrade to HDR (High Dynamic Range) is in the pipeline and 8K Ultra HD is also being considered for the future. But don’t hold your breath just yet. 

Bushell said that there’s no plans to seriously upgrade BT Sport Ultra HD beyond its current form for at least another two years, owing mainly to the number of 4K-ready TV sets in folks homes and production hardware. 

Bushell said: “In the end, for the current range of production capabilities, and for the current generation of 4K screens going into peoples’ homes, what we’ve created with our 4K service is the maximum that’s possible at the moment and we generally feel that the next upgrades are probably two years away.”

Part of the motivation for launching the 4K Ultra HD TV channel – the UK’s first – this summer was to make the most of the Champions League coverage rights, which BT splurged £897 million on. 

Related: BT Sport Ultra HD – Behind the scenes at the British MotoGP and Sony Android TVs to support Netflix and Amazon HDR content“Given that we wanted to do something really dynamic for Champions League, for us the case was clear – launch now and then maybe in two years time add some upgrades around that,” Bushell added. 

BT Sport currently films and broadcasts live sports in 4K Ultra HD – 3,840×2,160, four times the resolution of Full HD – at 50fps (frames per second). 

This is higher than the frame rate which the likes of Netflix and Amazon currently shoot their 4K content in (24fps), but Amazon has announced plans to start streaming HDR content soon. HDR essentially allows for more vivid and lifelike images. This Flickr group gives you an idea of the differences between standard, non-HDR images and images with a high dynamic range. 

The Humax-made BT Sport DTR T-4000 set-top box doesn’t do HDR in it’s current form, although this could be added via a firmware or hardware upgrade. 

That said, that the next big advance in BT TV is more likely to be audio-based. Andy Beale, chief engineer at BT Sport recently said support for 5.1.4 surround sound could land before an upgrade to HDR does, although the jury’s also out on when that’s likely to land. 

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