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Smithsonian outlines 4K commitment, channel launch hopes

Smithsonian Channel will make all of its orignal productions in 4K from now on and is eyeing a 4K  channel launch, according to Smithsonian Networks’ executive vice president, David Royle.

Speaking on a 4K Ultra HD panel at MIPCOM, Royle predicted that a lot of 4K content will start to appear on over-the-top services, but said cable and the satellite operators cannot afford to sit by.

“They’re going to have to rise to this challenge and the cable operators in particular do not want to be left in the situation they were [in] with HD where satellite moved much more quickly,” said Royle.

“We are going to see, I think, first in the United States specialised channels starting up on places like Comcast, DirecTV and they will be coming to channels like us to contribute programming to them – that is a likely model to start. But I just genuinely believe it won’t be long before we’re launching a 4K channel.”

Royle likened the current mood in Cannes as regards 4K content to 2006/2007 when HD content was “just beginning to get going” and said that Smithsonian had made a definite decision to be at the forefront of 4K, just as it was for HD.

“We really see ourselves moving very rapidly into all 4K. All our orignal productions from now on will be in 4K,” said Royle.

Asked whether the US-based Smithsonian Channel planned to launch internationally, Royle said he hoped that the network would launch in Europe “soon” without giving further details.

“Our first venture abroad was into Canada – it was a co-venture with Blue Ant – but we certainly hope to [start] moving into Europe and elsewhere. Watch this space.”

Also speaking on the same panel, Anthony Geffen, the CEO and executive producer of Atlantic Productions, urged broadcasters in the UK to “step up the the plate” in terms of 4K in the same way as Smithsonian.

Geffen said that though 4K TV sales are now rapidly increasing “unless people see 4K stuff on there, they’re not going to get excited about it.” Atlantic is currently working on a number of 4K projects including the forthcoming David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef.

Cosetta Lagani, the head of the Sky 3D channel at Sky Italia, said on the same panel that the channel continues to grow and now has some 430,000 subscribers, and claimed that 4K will not be a substitute for 3D.

“They are not necessarily one an alternative for the other – they can offer a different experience put together so that every customer can choose the experience that they likes more,” she said.