Sky to beat BBC to 4K, predicts BBC executive

Mark Harrison

Mark Harrison

Sky is likely to adopt ultra high definition 4K technology quicker than the BBC, with the UK public service broadcaster currently more focused on improving existing HD technologies, according to BBC executive Mark Harrison.

Speaking at the Digital TV World Summit, Harrison, who is controller of production for BBC North, said that while both Sky and the BBC were looking “really closely” at 4K, BBC deployment is still “a way off.”

“I’m sure that Sky will get there first in some – I don’t mean this in a pejorative way, but – attention grabbing 4K moment. That’s kind of their business model and good luck to them,” said Harrison.

“The BBC, to some degree, is constrained by our universality. We have to keep thinking about serving everybody rather than serving a niche or specialist audience that might have access to that kind of product. It doesn’t necessarily upset us to see them go first.”

Harrison said that his R&D colleagues at the BBC were more fixated on better quality high-definition content, claiming that viewers were more likely to notice an increase in picture quality when watching HD at a higher frame rate than watching 4K.

“Their obsession [BBC R&D staff] is around frame rates, is around dynamic range, it’s around colour, it’s around codecs and it’s around trying to make sure that the pictures that we give to all our license fee payers, whatever they are watching just look better,” said Harrison.

“I think it’s important that the manufacturing industry and researchers from broadcasting can start to get together around this, and that’s because television is a discipline, it’s not a device.”

Harrison said “if there’s one group of people who really, really love 4K, it’s programme makers,” and claimed that more high quality TV shows produced in this format could help to drive uptake of 4K TVs and devices.

Sky made its first 4K broadcast in September, trialling the technology by filming a Premier League football match between West Ham and Stoke City in the ultra high definition format.

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