NeuLion is powering a 4K streaming option for tomorrow night’s UFC 200 pay-per-view event to viewers with Sony HDR Ultra HD TV sets in the U.S. and Canada. The stream is enabled by viewers who download the UFC app from Google Play and pay a $10 additional fee on top of the standard $59.99 PPV pass. All of the 4K encoding and delivery is done by the NeuLion Digital Platform. A parallel 4K telecast is also available to DirecTV viewers using their set-top boxes.
NeuLion’s EVP Chris Wagner told me in a briefing that Sony is the first company to deploy NeuLion’s 4K streaming consumer electronics SDK. The 4K streams are delivered at 60 frames per second and require approximately 18 mbps. Chris said the streams are encoded at numerous bit rates, so if a viewer experiences loss of bandwidth, the stream will automatically adjust down its quality level.
Chris said NeuLion has been testing its 4K capabilities with the NBA, Univision and UFC, but that this is the first PPV 4K event. It is still relatively early days for 4K in the U.S. but adoption is expected to ramp over the next few years, with research firm IHS expecting 34% or 34 million U.S. homes will own a 4K TV by 2019.
Because most set-top boxes aren’t capable of handling 4K streams, but more and more connected TV devices are, it is quite possible that online will be the way that 4K programming is distributed in the near term. Netflix and Amazon have both been introducing 4K content in their services, which will no doubt increase as the base of 4K users jumps.