Sales of higher-than-high-definition 4K television sets have been slow to take off thanks to the classic chicken and egg problem. No one wants to buy a 4K set when there’s not many 4K shows or movies to watch. But nobody wants to make more 4K shows and movies until more people buy the sets.
Slowly, of course, the tide is turning. This week, AT&T’s DirecTV (DTV) said it has snagged about two dozen major league baseball games for this season in 4K. The satellite video provider’s 20 million subscribers will be the first to have access to live professional baseball in 4K resolution, which has about four times the resolution of regular high definition, the company said.
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The first game to be featured is the L.A. Dodgers against the San Francisco Giants on April 15. The game, which is being carried on the MLB Network, will mark the first live 4K pro baseball broadcast. Later 4K offerings will also include two New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox games on April 29 and 30. Games will be available only to subscribers on DirecTV’s ultimate or premier packages who have a Genie HD DVR and, of course, a compatible 4K television set, the company said.
Still, DirecTV’s full slate of 25 games in 4K for the year touches only a tiny fraction of the more than 2,400 games in the regular season. Most games are locked up on regional cable sports networks that have shown interest but haven’t made much concrete progress in implementing 4K broadcasts yet.
And even some DirecTV subscribers may not be able to watch every game due to MLB’s archaic blackout rules. If a game is blocked for some viewers, they’ll be “provided with an alternate game telecast or other programming, which will not be televised in 4K UHD,” DirecTV said.
The 4K revolution is evolving slowly. In the United States, fewer than one in 20 households had a 4K TV last year, but market tracker IHS projects penetration will rise quickly, hitting 10% this year and 33% by 2019. Worldwide last year, shipments of 4K-capable sets surged 173% but that still represented only 32 million out of 224 million total sets, according to IHS.