DirecTV files trademark applications for industry's first 4K network

DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) may be developing the pay TV industry's first 4K, or ultra HD network, according to several trademark applications it filed last week.

The satellite TV provider filed trademark applications for the brands 4KN, 4KNET, 4KNetwork, 4K Network and 4K on Feb. 21, according to documents FierceCable obtained from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Consumer electronics manufacturers such as LG and Sony unveiled Ultra HD models last month at the Consumer Electronics Show. CEA announced at the convention that TV manufacturers would use Ultra High-Definition or Ultra HD to market their next generation TVs, which deliver more than 8 million lines of resolution--or four times the resolution of HDTVs in most U.S. homes.

It may be several years before enough Ultra HD TVs are in U.S. homes for DirecTV to invest in launching its 4K network. LG is selling its first Ultra HD, an 84-inch model, for about $15,000.

DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri said the company is just beginning to explore how it may be able to launch a 4K network. "4K is something we're thinking about, but we're only in the exploratory stages. The technology is many years away at this point," Gringeri told FierceCable. He noted that DirecTV files dozens of trademark applications each year "to give us flexibility in the future."

DirecTV launched n3D, one of the industry's first dedicated 3D networks, in 2011. But the company found it challenging to program the 24-hour channel, and it announced last June that it would only offer part-time programming such as coverage of the Olympics on n3D.

DirecTV may also find it difficult to obtain content for a 4K network. But programmers such as Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA) have already begun shooting content for 4K or Ultra HD TVs. In October, Sony, Discovery and IMAX formed a studio to develop programming for 3net, their joint venture 3DTV channel. The companies said that their 3net Studios would also produce programming formatted for 4K TVs.

According to DirecTV's trademark applications for 4KN and related brands, the company would like to use the 4K brands for satellite TV broadcasting, video-on-demand programming, pay-per-view programming and the streaming of Internet video programming.

About a decade ago, DirecTV used the launch of HDTV channels to target cable subscribers. While it's not clear how much bandwidth it would need to launch a 4K network, the company could use the network to market its service to early adopters.

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