You can film a super model leading a horse to water but you can’t make her tell the truth. Last month, satellite broadcaster DirecTV got its hand slapped for making misleading claims about its ability to deliver 4K Ultra HD in a series of beach-themed commercials featuring super model Hannah Davis and a talking horse. In the first commercial, she asks the horse, ‘Did you know that DirecTV has 4K, the best picture format available? It’s like a theater-quality experience in your home.’
While the ad succeeded in drawing nearly a million YouTube views, it also attracted the attention of cable company Charter Communications, which filed a complaint with the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which assesses the truth and accuracy of advertising in the United States. In a statement, NAD said that the commercials were deceptive for a variety of reasons – one regarding claims about 4K, such as ‘DirecTV has 4K, the best picture format available,’ and the possibility that the statement could imply that ‘Most or all of DirecTV’s programming is available in 4K.’ NAD said that the commercial was deceptive because it didn’t clarify that DirecTV only offered 20 titles in 4K, and they encouraged the company to ‘modify or discontinue’ the ad.
‘DirecTV is one of only a few television service providers to offer any programming in 4K and NAD determined that the advertiser should be able to promote this benefit,’ the statement continued. ‘However, NAD noted, the advertiser offers only a small number of movies in 4K and not general programming.’
NAD recommended that DirecTV clarify its commercials to say that DirecTV only offered a select number of titles and encouraged the company to ‘modify or discontinue’ the ads. (NAD decisions are not binding; however, the NAD carries a lot of weight in advertising, and the NAD can recommend the issue to the FCC if the issue isn’t resolved independently.)
Delivering 4K Remains Difficult
Meanwhile, the amount of DirecTV 4K available remains a mystery. On its website the company says that ‘The number of 4K movies varies from week to week, but you always have at least three 4K movies to watch instantly if you are opted into Genie Recommends [service, a feature on the Genie HD DVR].’
To get to that stage of content availability isn’t a walk on the beach, you have to:
- Subscribe to DirecTV
- Obtain a DirecTV-compatible 4K TV
- Get a Genie HD DVR
- Download and rent each movie for $3.99 – $15.99
Once you’ve downloaded the 4K movie file to the DVR you have the option of watching the movie for a few days. In other words, DirecTV faces many of the 4K content deliver challenges as IPVOD (IP video on demand) providers, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Can the DirecTV 4K Satellite Solve 4K Delivery Challenges?
The future of DirecTV 4K is up in the air – literally. Since 2014, the company has had its 4K satellite in orbit ready to deliver 4K content on 50 channels. Early this year, DirecTV plans to start the services with a 4K sports channel for ‘tech-savvy subscribers’ who want the added clarity of 4K for sporting events. ‘But getting our content partners to climb on board is the big stickler,’ Phil Goswitz, the senior vice president of DirecTV, recently explained in an article in the Charlotte Observer. ‘They have yet to be convinced there’s a return on investment.’
Why are they so concerned about the ROI of broadcasting 4K via satellite? Limited content distribution opportunities.
A regular satellite broadcast system, Push VOD (video on demand), beams a small amount of programming to a set top box (STB) whose limited storage space means customers only have access to a few movies at a time. Meanwhile, NVOD (near video on demand), broadcasts the same movie on a number of channels simultaneously with slight start time offsets; this system is much more bandwidth intensive yet provides viewers with faster access to a certain popular title.
So if content developers are producing elaborate movies and have the option of either making their entire line of titles available for IPVOD or opting for a satellite deal the choice seems easy.
Deliver 4K Content Easily with illumin8
What if it were easier for DirecTV to provide its customers with much more 4K content?
It will be soon. We’re about to release illumin8, a revolutionary image-enhancing technology that will provide capabilities that IPVOD and satellite content providers currently don’t have.
With illumin8 technology, DirecTV would only have to send SD or HD files – data that is 75 percent smaller than original 4K files – via the Internet or over the air. Connected to STBs, illumin8 will be able to upsample and autotune the content to 4K viewing experiences or better quality in real time.
Sound impossible? It’s not.