Canada's Rogers to show NHL, Blue Jays games in 4K amid its rollout of 1-Gig services

Canada's Rogers Communications announced a major 4K programming initiative, with plans to show all 81 Toronto Blue Jays baseball games and 20 "marque" National Hockey League match-ups in the UltraHD format next year. 

Rogers said it will deliver 4K programming to capable display devices via a soon-to-be-deployed 4K set-top, which will also enable High Dynamic Range (HDR) companion technology. 

The availability of major-league sports in 4K is a boon to the format. Sports was the catalyst that helped spur wide adoption of HD a decade ago, but there's been little to no 4K sports programming in the North American market so far.

In addition to sports, Rogers said it will offer 100 hours of 4K movies and TV shows via its shomi SVOD service. The operator also said that Netflix's (NASDAQ: NFLX) 4K catalog will be available to subscribers. 

These 4K SVOD offerings, meanwhile, will be used to promote the operator's new $150-a-month 1 Gbps "Ignite" broadband service. Rogers said that by the end of 2016, 4 million customers in Ontario and Atlantic Canada will have access to the service. 

Rogers' 4K announcement follows on the heels of fellow Canadian pay-TV operator Videotron, which announced 4K services in August. 

Speaking to the Toronto Globe & Mail, Rogers CEO Guy Laurence said that vertical integration -- the MSO owns the Blue Jays, for example -- gives Rogers in advantage in establishing a robust library of 4K programming right off the bat. 

"If I employ every single person in that value chain, I can ensure quality," Laurence said. "What we've announced today is the final thing that will unlock the whole value chain for 4K."

In the United States, 4K content remains relatively rare, though Comcast and others have announced support for the format. Further, the percentage of U.S. homes capable of streaming 4K video is increasing, but at a very slow rate. In its second quarter State of the Internet report, Akamai said that just 21 percent of U.S. homes have Internet speeds of 15 Mbps or higher, a threshold that's considered the minimum necessary to effectively stream 4K video.

For more:
- read this Rogers Communications press release
- read this Globe & Mail story
- read this Engadget story

Related articles:
Rogers blames new regs for increased Canadian cord cutting
Sony launches YouTube channel for 4K content creators, hopes to spur programming growth
HEVC Advance patent group might give Netflix, Amazon and other 4K players a break
Canada's Videotron rolls out 4K set-top as pay-TV's Ultra HD market grows quiet in the U.S.