Comcast wants to launch HDR-capable Xi6 set-top in time for Summer Olympics, insider says

LAS VEGAS -- Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) product executives are quietly hoping to accelerate the launch of the company's HDR- and 4K-capable Xi6 set-top in time for NBCUniversal's coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, a source close to the device's development told FierceCable.

Such an acceleration would modify Comcast's current plan, which is to release the HDR-capable Xi5 in spring/summer, while debuting the Xi6 -- which is capable of both video standards -- later on in 2016.

Comcast representatives had no comment for FierceCable. The source spoke on condition of anonymity. 

Comcast launched a limited, download-based 4K service a year ago on its X1 video platform. But the MSO has been largely quiet in terms of developing and promoting the service, sensing that consumer demand for 4K isn't yet robust.

However, company executives believe the integration of the complementary High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology will be a game-changer for 4K adoption, making the value proposition clearer for consumers. 

"If you've seen side-by-side comparisons of current-market [4K] TVs and next-generation TVs [with HDR], you can see the difference," said Scott Boyarsky, Comcast's VP of product development and planning, at a CES panel Tuesday. "There really hasn't been a compelling reason to take a 60-inch HD TV that's hanging on the wall and replace it with a 4K set."

Customers see a difference, he added, when they "walk into Best Buy and see a sign that says not just more pixels, but more range, more depth."

Speaking to FierceCable in October, Comcast video services GM Matthew Strauss said: "HDR is going to be a tremendous quality driver that we want to embrace. We feel very good about our ability to support it."

While Comcast is bullish on HDR, set-top maker TiVo remains more cautious about diving into the market aggressively (even though its new Bolt DVR supports 4K). 

"4K is going to have a horizon, but it's going to take a while," said Jim Denney, VP of product management and strategy for TiVo, speaking alongside Boyarsky. 

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