There’s nothing better than watching major sporting events in 4K ultra high definition (UHD) resolutions, and France’s authorities appears to agree. According to FlatpanelsHD, the country is set to broadcast the Summer Olympics in crisp 4K next year and plans to switch off its HD signal completely by 2029, with the goal of broadcasting exclusively in UHD from then on – although some content will be upscaled from HD.

This is great news for anyone with one of the best 4K TVs because, even though a lot of today’s smart TVs can support this higher resolution, watching regular over-the-air TV has never really taken advantage of the latest video tech. 

In fact, most countries’ broadcasters still use standard definition (SD) signals, so no matter if you have the best indoor TV antenna you’re not getting that higher quality image. France has already turned off its SD signal and plans to switch off its HD signal, which will ultimately free up more broadcasting capacity for better quality 4K. 

The country is reportedly the first to start the transition from HD to UHD for terrestrial TV. While 4K sporting content is gradually coming to US and UK households too, this has been a lot slower with only a few broadcasters supporting it, so it’s still up in the air whether we’ll see a similar rollout here.      

Opinion: the US and UK need to dramatically improve their broadcast TV experience

In today’s streaming age, it’s easy to forget that a lot of over-the-air broadcasts aren’t in 4K. It’s even important to check your account on the best streaming services to get the best possible picture. A lot of these let you upgrade to higher quality resolutions but often you will have to pay for it.

When it comes to watching regular over-the-air television, the ability to have a 4K picture is even less accessible, especially for those of us living in the US or UK. With LG dropping ATSC 3.0 4K tuners from its 2024 OLED TVs over a patent battle and Samsung or Sony potentially being next, the future for digital 4K TV broadcasting is even more in the dark.

Without a move like France’s to force TV companies to support ATSC 3.0 as standard (and to create an equivalent system for the UK), we may be stuck in a chicken and egg situation, where broadcast doesn’t move towards 4K without TV hardware in place, and TV hardware doesn’t move towards 4K without clear broadcast support.

Until any new developments occur in the space, we’ll likely see more and more people continue to shift towards other forms of media services, including FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) as these are more akin to regular broadcast TV channels. I for one am already firmly in the streaming camp and won’t be compromising any time soon unless the US and UK were to follow in France’s footsteps.  

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