Sky says it will participate in Chorus 4K fibre live broadcast trial

UPDATE: Freeview, whose primary shareholders are TVNZ, MediaWorks and Maori TV, says it will also join the trial.

EARLIER: Sky TV will participate in a Chorus trial of a live broadcast in 4K (ultra high definition) over fibre, chief executive John Fellet says (if anyone notices, given this morning he also quit).

The trial will take place in Auckland in May.

Today, all of Sky TV's broadcast content is delivered by satellite, through decoders that don't support 4K (although marketing partner Vodafone uses fibre for its Vodafone TV product and supports 4K).

The pay-TV broadcaster has limited HD (high definition) content, due to constraints on satellite capacity.

Any new Sky service that comes out of this trial could see it catch up with and even potentially pass Netflix in video quality. However, there is so far no timeline on when Chorus could launch a commercial live 4K streaming service, or when Sky TV or other broadcasters might adopt it. 

The Chorus service would run in parallel to any broadband service also provided over the fibre, using a second port on the Optical Network Terminal (ONT) installed in homes, to connect to consumers’ TVs, chief executive Kate McKenzie says.

That means the hugely data-hungry 4K or 8K video would not interfere with any other internet use in a household (if you've had UFB fibre installed at your place, then you'll already have an ONT stuck to a wall somewhere, with only one of its four ports in use under a standard setup. Vodafone TV does not have a dedicated ONT port, putting it in the same class as Netflix and other over-the-top services).

Ms McKenzie sees live sports and live cultural events as the killer apps for live 4K broadcasts over fibre.

Once the UFB rollout is complete in 2022, fibre will be accessible to 87% of homes, giving it better reach than terrestrial TV broadcasts, she says (if still not the blanket coverage of satellite).

Chorus is speaking to all broadcasters, although so far only Sky TV has formally signed on for the trial.

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