The BBC is planning to offer Ultra HD content via the iPlayer, ahead of other TV platforms.
But the distribution of BBC UHD content via digital terrestrial TV (Freeview) will be “very difficult”, according to Andy King, Technology Controller at BBC Television, in an interview with Advanced Television.
Until SD/HD simulcasts end, it is not clear where the capacity for any BBC UHD channel on Freeview would come from. The BBC took part in a trial of UHD on terrestrial TV in 2014, using capacity now used for commercial Freeview broadcasts, to test broadcasting the football World Cup and Commonwealth Games in a regular broadcast environment.
The BBC has already been trialling UHD content on the iPlayer; the existance of the trial in 2015 confirmed by a now removed help page on the iPlayer website.
With the impending release of 4K production Planet Earth II, Mr King confirmed the BBC was working on how they would get UHD content to viewers, but that they were also taking an “internet first” strategic approach to distributing the BBC’s first regular Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range (HDR) content.
Before UHD is distributed on linear TV platforms, the broadcaster wants to make all of its existing regional services available in HD, as part of the next BBC Charter period, which is now due to start in April 2017.
In the meantime, to enable the reception of UHD programmes via the internet on compatible TVs, relevant support has been added to the specifications governing terrestrial/IP hybrid platform Freeview Play.