Trying to get a handle on what’s going on with Comcast’s plans to launch 4K Ultra HD video and high dynamic range (HDR) content as part of its regular TV service offerings is a bit like playing a game of Whack-A-Mole.

Executives with the giant Cable Multi System Operator (MSO) have made repeated statements about plans for 4K Ultra HD supporting set-top boxes, like the Xi4, which was due last year, and was to offer supporting movie streaming like the service it currently provides through a streaming app on certain Samsung 4K Ultra HDTVs. But the Xi4 has yet to appear.

The Xi4 was to have been followed by the Xi5 (pictured at top), which is a wirelessly connected client for the company’s XB6 multi-service gigabit wireless gateway that will also support the MSO’s Xfinity Home service, according to a report by Multichannel News. At the recent INTX Show in Boston came word from Comcast executives that the Xi5 is now slated to arrive on July 4, 2016.

But the device apparently will launch with HDR-supporting programming either without or before supporting 4K Ultra HD resolution. Comcast has said very little officially on its plan.

At initial launch, the Xi5 will be available in limited markets with plans to roll out more broadly in the coming months.

Read more on Comcast’s changing 4k/HDR plans after the jump:

According to reports, a sample range of content is planned to give customers better insight into the new benefits HDR has to offer images, including a wider range of contrast from nearly perfect black to bright whites. So far, no one has offered HDR content with programming below 4K Ultra HD resolution, although it is certainly possible.

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According to  Multichannel News, Comcast sees greater value in HDR than in 4K Ultra HD alone, although 4K UHD is still in the company’s delivery plan.

Eventually, Comcast plans to launch its ultimate set-top box solution called the Xi6, which will bring the best of 4K Ultra HD and HDR together through the cable service. The original target introduction date of the Xi6 was reportedly to have been before the Summer Olympics, but the plan has now changed to next year.

NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast, will be televising Olympic coverage this year, and plans have been announced to record some portion of the games, including the opening ceremonies, in 4K Ultra HD with HDR. Understandably, being one of the first multichannel video service providers to carry 4K Ultra HD/HDR coverage of the event would have been a significant opportunity for Comcast and the new technology and the 4K UHD industry.

According to Multichannel News, the company has said it plans 4K Ultra HD tests of the event for a couple of hours a day, including the opening ceremonies, and will also be shooting it in HDR with Dolby Atmos sound.

Get your mallets ready, it looks like Whack-A-Mole will be a new Olympic sport.

By Greg Tarr


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