August 2, 2012
By Joyce Wang
It’s the next generation HD that’s 16 times the current HD resolution. Dubbed “Ultra-HD,” the technology was first developed by Japanese broadcaster NHK and now Comcast/NBC Universal is looking to bring the technology to U.S. consumers. CableFAX spoke with Comcast/NBCU Washington President Kyle McSlarrow about the company’s Ultra-HD initiative and his time at Comcast/NBCU.
What is the company doing on Ultra-HD?
We are teaming with Japanese broadcaster NHK and the BBC to host a series of Ultra-HD/Super Hi-Vision demo for the London Olympics. The technology has been in development for more than 10 years. The demo in Comcast/NBCU’s DC headquarters featured Olympic footage on an 85-inch LCD screen. The company committed to the test, which took 9 months of preparation, without having seen the picture. We weren’t disappointed. The picture’s astonishing.
Washington is one of only 7 demo sites, with 3 in Britain and another 3 in Japan. There will be public viewings in London and Bradford, England; Glasgow, Scotland; Shibuya, Akihabara, and Fukushima, Japan; and invitation-only viewings in DC.
When will the technology arrive in our living room?
We don’t know right now. The technology is still in early stage development. Some of the things we still need to work on include lowering the cost, developing better compression technology and making the equipment smaller. It’s a familiar technology cycle if you think about HDTV.
The London Olympics is a great event to showcase the technology. What other content is coming to Ultra-HD?
It’s too early to tell but there would be plenty of opportunities for programmers. I am an optimist. Looking at video trends, a few things are clear—the appetite for the best content and the best viewing experience. The demand for video will always be there. Part of our Ultra-HD experiment is to stimulate the development and start the discussion. The demo is part of a longstanding tradition at both Comcast and NBCU of leading the way in TV technology.
You joined Comcast/NBCU from NCTA as its CEO in April 2011. How’s everything so far?
Like my time at NCTA, it’s been a great experience. My job here is a combination of business and public policy while working at a trade group is almost exclusive public policy. There are aspects of the job that are similar. The difference is working at a corporation allows me to dive deeper in technology and business vs. juggling different things at a higher level.