Is OTA Broadcast TV 4K?

Is OTA Broadcast TV 4K yet? If not, will recorded TV and live TV look bad on a 4K TV? If not, when will this happen? Any dates? thanks in advance - Jonah

No, OTA is 1080i or 720p. But I watch Tablo recorded shows on 4K TVs all the time and they look fine.

Higher rez OTA won’t be until ATSC 3.0 is out and implemented. I figure at least 5 year until it’s prevalent, more likely 10 years. The first HDTV switchover took a really long time.

broadcast is HD on main channels (1080i/30 or 720p/60), and 480i/30 on most subchannels.

As far as looking bad, that all depends on how well your device handles upscaling (YMMV)

4k broadcasts are supposedly coming with ATSC 3.0, but when is a big question mark- It’s not expected to come to early-adopters in the US until 2019 at the earliest…

No one in the US is broadcasting 4k over the air, yet. The correct term is ATSC 3.0 as mentioned above.

You can watch non-4k content on any 4k TV, that is not the issue. In fact, odds are if you have a 4k TV right now most of the stuff you are watching is not in 4K. That’s because most services don’t offer (or have a very limited amount of) 4k content. I think DirecTV has like 4 or 5 channels that is true 4k, Netflix has a few shows/movies in 4k and only if you signed up for that package, Amazon FireTV also has a few shows in 4k. Everything else is just HD (720p up to 1080p). But all this plays just fine on any 4k TV.

It Is going to be a really long time before the US switches to ATSC 3.0 and even when it does become available, ATSC 1.0 will still be around long after.

You will most likely need new hardware that has an ATSC 3.0 tuner (Tablo currently does not) so that you can actually receive ATSC 3.0 content. But I wouldn’t worry about that yet. Even if you bought a new TV today, that TV will most likely be dead by the time ATSC 3.0 becomes the new standard.

Thanks for the responses! Very useful - so the new 4K TV I have won’t work with Tablo. Anyone know of a streaming service that streams basic channels at 4K?

That is incorrect. Tablo will work with any 4K TV. Will it be 4K resolution? No, but the quality will be as good as any other 720 or 1080 source.

Basic channels are not 4K now anyway so how can they be streamed at 4K?

I think you completely misunderstood what has been said.

As I stated you can watch non-4k content on any 4k TV, this includes Tablo and any OTA broadcast.

As I mentioned above, Netflix and Amazon both stream limited 4K content. Most of their catalogs are still 1080p at most (but once again, will play just fine on your 4K tv)

I have a 4K tv, it works just fine with Tablo. I can tell no difference between media coming from Tablo and media coming from other 1080 sources. I do however run my Tablo at maximum recording quality (HD 1080 - 10Mbps, 720@60fps). I have the bandwidth as many of my devices are Ethernet connected and the others are WiFi over 802.11ac with multiple access points.

Sorry about that - I think I mistyped the above.

What I meant to say was that my 4K TV won’t show Tablo content in 4K only in 1080p. Which is what everyone is saying.

That’s fine, but I was wondering if anyone knew of a streaming service that lets you watch local channels in 4K? ie. the same channels that would come through Tablo, but in 4K streamed live to Apple TV 4K or similar instead of coming through a home antenna.

The only ones I can think of would be Direct TV Now, Sling, YouTube TV, but I don’t think any of those have 4K yet either but if they do, I’m just wondering if the cost for those channels in 4K + with an Internet connection would be much higher than just the Internet connection alone?


There are no 4K local channels. The current standard permits at most 1080 (not exactly sure whether it’s 1080p or 1080i and whether it’s maxed out at 30 fps or 60).

Your TV will perform upscaling similar to all other content it receives at <4K. For anything from around 720p upwards the image quality will be great. It’s for the 480p streams that they will look a tad fuzzy…

Just to make this perfectly clear - you’re not going to get standard network programming (local channels) in 4K because it’s not being produced in 4K. They don’t produce it in 4K because they can’t broadcast it in 4K.

Any 4K content you’re going to get has to be specifically produced in higher than HD resolution. Movies have this, and some content that’s intended for better-than-HD distribution.

No “channels” are in 4k yet… and if and when we will see them no one knows. We have the technology to display it, and the over the air broadcast standard is final and will see rollout next year, but weather anyone flips the switch? The problem comes down to bandwidth and market share. When we moved from standard to HD, we all read had one foot in the door with digital cable. The same mpeg2 based tech that was doing 720x480p was a flip switch away from 1280x720 or even 1920x1080 in terms of broadcasting. Another thing is ALL flat panel TVs big and small were atleast supporting 1280x720 HD, and it wasn’t long for flat panels to quickly fill the user market. Also cable operators were finding that this new fangled compression tech was so much better then analog and even with 720p hd, they were fitting 4-7 channels in the same amount of bandwidth as one channel previously. Most cable stations are not 1080p. Pay movies stations probably are, I havnt used one in decades.

So now 4k is around the door but the need to upgrade is no longer there. For most people anything above 720p on 32" displays or smaller is unnoticeable. Also unless a TV breaks, very few will replace a working TV with a 4k tv. so the adoption of 4k TVs will be slower. Then you got bandwidth issues, 4k takes a considerable amount of bandwidth. You will pretty much never see it on cable except for probably pay-per-view. If cable companies can’t be bothered with 1080p they sure arn’t going to consider 4k, especially with the monopolies they have in the US. Streaming services aren’t going to be much help either, current online services are streaming 4k at fairly low bitrates just to be manageable. Also 4k content is currently limited to newly release block buster movies and premium TV shows made by the likes of netflix and no one else atm? ^^ This isn’t changing in the foreseeable future. I suspect at the very least, news broadcast and late night television shows will populate the airwaves at 4k because your simply doing some equipment and camera swaps in a single studio and they are heavily watched. But who knows when seasonal based shows will step up.

I just got an OTA system installed at my home today. I was told that it is 1080 HD and “some is 720p”, and that they do not compress it (which I did not believe to begin with, but assumed it would look like a typical digital broadcast I am accustomed to online). I run a media lab and have created several other labs and video production and post production centers over the decades at various private and public institutions.

So, I may be a bit more critical than some-- especially since I have not watched regular TV for decades now, and have instead mostly watched just online (YT, Prime, Netflix, etc). Since I paid for the antenna and such, I will likely leave it in place in case the Internet goes down, or there is something I can only get on it. However, the picture quality is abysmal. Since it was just installed, maybe something is not optimally configured (I do get all channels, but they look pretty uniformly the same).

In any event, the compression rates are so high, that it looks like someone took a 10:1 MPEG 2 compressed HD signal and ran it through h.264 at fixed rate compression of about 5 to 10:1 again. The level of macro-blocking, chroma noise and nyquist noise is horrific. Skin looks like blurred plastic, the gamut is possibly 1/3 the color space of sRGB, there are color shifts that vary with the program and other signs of major digital and related distortion. Do they not know that most of these types of artifacts are multiplicative not additive, and as such, heavy compression should not be used in sequential passes, or maybe they don’t care?

At their stated data rates of 7-15Mbps, I or anyone who cared and knew how to properly compress digital media could make the video look better than much of what I see online (let alone this OTA); but instead, it is so poor it is like a bad YouTube videos done 5 years ago, which was highly compressed by someone before uploading it to YouTube’s compression, who was more concerned about upload time than playback quality.

I spoke with a friend at a major distribution house, who told me that “they have found that most people seem to accept the reduced quality, and that they have recently decided at several of the major providers to reduce it further to be able to fit more programming.” He said that they will continue to do so until there is significant push-back, because channel demands increase over time and revenues are mostly flat.

That is unfortunate, since I had hoped that this would provide a good source of alternative content. Unless there is something wrong with something here, it appears that they treat it as, “you are not paying for the streams, so you get what you get.”

When you say “OTA system” do you mean Tablo? I assume you mean the quality of watching live? If not, what is your recording quality set to in Settings?

I could see a noticeable difference in quality when I moved from cable to OTA but maybe unlike with a video professional like you I don’t have much other reference material that is better and I simply don’t know what I’m missing.

My major OTA channels (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and PBS) are superb HD quality (1080 and 720). Those are the .1 channels. Their subchannels (.2 and .3) are 480 resolution - some are DVD quality, others inferior (almost VCR quality).

All my majors (TS or MPEG2) are better than cable or satellite (which are compressed MP4) and in most cases better than Amazon or Netflix. One only has to compare a show like “Downton Abbey” on PBS with any other source to see OTA’s superiority. Football and hockey on NBC (crystal clear and sharp) beat any sports cable has to offer for resolution and fluidity - not even a contest… The Olympics image on NBC was terrific (which was probably done through the Korean facilities which natively broadcast the Olympics in 4K)!

However what I’m talking about is the direct antenna feed to the TV, not Tablo. The Tablo’s feed to my Roku from the antenna is not as great as the direct antenna feed though quite good.

BTW the subchannels tend to broadcast older programs (from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s) and their quality will be inferior sometimes if those programs have not been reprocessed by the studio. PBS however (on their .2 channel) is showing many programs originally filmed in HD at a lower resolution and they still look quite good.

Whenever I record NBC, CBS, or PBS OTA with my PC the resolution is 1920 x 1080; a two hour file is about 13 GB (a DVD is 4 GB in comparison). So the picture quality is outstanding. I compress the MPG2 using Handbrake (21 setting) as an MP4 for archiving and the picture quality still is great at a quarter of the original size. For me the only thing that beats an OTA recording is a video ripped from Bluray (which can be as high as 24 GB).

So no complaints about OTA picture quality here :grinning:

I would think that what ever information the user is looking for would be detailed in the ATSC 1.0 standard as well as the what antenna and HDMI formats their TV supports.

The ATSC 1.0 standard has to address the common denominator for any TV. Any modification from the standard has to be able to be applied by a down stream processor or the actual TV (4k upscaler).

My guess is this guy is simply a cable/satellite troll. That paragraph is total BS. All the major networks & their local distributors broadcast in full HD with no compression (but to answer the original question not 4K).

Now the sub-channels are 480 SD with much of the programming being from the analog days. So if he is talking about these channels, then yes they are inferior to cable/satellite feeds.

Ha. I guess I just assumed the “major providers” to which he was referring were probably cable or satellite companies which we already know do compression.

My understanding is that he is talking about OTA broadcasts. Maybe I am misunderstanding him, but I don’t think so. It is why I give absolutely no credence to what he has posted. So unless he has only viewed sub-channels, he either has no clue as to what he is saying or he is a troll. I guess it is possible that he simply has a bad antenna setup, but the issues & the way he describes them are not consistent with a poor OTA signal. We all know that a poor signal results in really bad pixelation or simply a complete loss of signal.