The Smithsonian Channel is stepping deeper into the tech-heavy world of ultra high definition (UHD) with the introduction of an on-demand service for 4K content.
The on-demand service will include 10 hours of 4K programming by April 2017, and will be available to Smithsonian Channel subscribers at no additional cost.
“Smithsonian Channel is all about offering the ultimate storytelling and viewing experience and 4K Ultra HD is a natural progression in our development,” Janice Janik, SVP of sales and affiliate marketing for the Smithsonian, told realscreen.
The move to UHD content offering comes as commercial sales of 4K-ready TV are on the uptick. A June 2016 NPD Connected Intelligence study found awareness of 4K TVS had risen by 50% in the U.S. among adults from the previous year, with six million UHD sets sold in the country as of April , and continued growth projected.
At the same time, said Janik, “We see a very real lack of 4K content from the existing, traditional programming providers.
“A few of the digital basic channels have said they are ‘transitioning to 4K’ or ‘building up a reserve of 4K’ but none are making it part of their current offering. We thought, why not provide our customers as much content as we can, as soon as we can, as part of the Smithsonian Channel subscription?”
Only a partial lineup for the on-demand service has been announced so far, but genres will span air & space, history, nature, wildlife, and travel. The first wave of 4K titles include: Mysteries of the Rainforest, Crazy Monsters of the Deep, Aerial America, David Attenborough: Conquest of the Skies and the historical doc Sacred Sites. (Of the latter title, Janik said it will include some archival footage, but deliver on 4K expectations.)
In an October 2016 interview with realscreen, David Royle, Smithsonian EVP of programming & production, noted the growing momentum around 4K adoption, adding, “There is value for us to be ahead of that curve both in terms of learning how to produce 4K, and then how to deliver it and also building up a body of work.”
This isn’t the first foray into 4K distribution for Smithsonian. It launched a standalone SVOD service Smithsonian Earth in Nov. 2015, which includes 4K streaming for all of its content. Smithsonian Earth specializes in nature-themed content, one of the more prolific genres on 4K, and while Smithsonian Channel also includes content within the same genre, according to Janik, there will be no overlap of content between the two 4K platforms.