Door opens for free 4K UHD TV content delivered via broadband as Freeview Play updates specification

posted on Friday, 23rd September 2016 by Steve May

4K  Broadcast  HDR 


Digital UK has opened the door to free-to-air 4K UHD TV broadcasts via Freeview Play, its new hybrid terrestrial broadcast and IPTV service. New updates to the Freeview Play specification require mandatory support for the decoding of HEVC for programmes delivered via broadband, and this includes optional support for Ultra HD and HDR. 

Other changes to the specification include enhanced subtitling in on-demand programmes using the EBU-TT-D standard, and additional content protection technologies.

Freeview Play built on the new HbbTV 2.0.1 standard and complies with version 8 of the DTG’s D-Book specification for broadcasting. It combines live TV with catch-up and on-demand services from the BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and UKTV.

There are two benefits of HEVC decoding support. The first is more efficient use of bandwidth for SD and HD channels, the second is support for Ultra HD and HDR.

Digital UK is owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva. The move would allow the BBC and ITV, as free to air leaders, to theoretically introduce UHD services via broadband within the Freeview Play environment. Freeview Play is keen to stress that at present, there are no plans for UHD channels - but the technology potential is now there.    

James Jackson, Technology Director at Digital UK, said: ‘As more manufacturers and content providers join Freeview Play the platform is evolving for the future and embracing new technologies, including HEVC and the potential for Ultra HD via broadband. Publishing this specification on our website also makes it easier for new products to come to market and for Freeview to continue bringing viewers the best in broadcast and on-demand TV, free from subscription.’

                    Also read
                    Oppo unveils UDP-203 4K UHD Blu-ray player
                    In-depth: CEDIA and IFA 2016 analysis

The new technical specification will apply to products developed and introduced from 2017. Freeview Play products developed using the new 2017 specification will also include enhanced search functionality, allowing viewers to find their favourite shows across on-demand players.

The new specification requirements relate to products to be developed in 2017 and beyond. Digital UK confirms that existing Freeview Play hardware will not be firmware ugradable to the new spec.

Freeview Play is currently available in Panasonic, JVC and Finlux TVs. Recorders are also available from Panasonic and Humax. Products from Sharp, Manhattan and others are in development.


Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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