DirecTV launches 4K exclusive to Samsung TVs

The satellite provider will begin offering access to more the 20 movies on-demand in 4K format, but for now subscribers can only watch them on a Samsung 4K TV.

Samsung's HU9000 is one of the TVs that works with DirecTV's 4K video. Sarah Tew

Just in time for the holiday buying season, the 4K content trickle is turning into a tiny stream.

Tomorrow DirecTV will make a selection of nearly 20 movies from Paramount and K2 Communications available via video-on-demand in 4K resolution. The move makes it the first multi-channel TV provider to deliver 4K to the home.

Titles initially available include "Star Trek (2009)," "Transformers: Age of Extinction," "Forrest Gump," "Coral Reef Adventure" and "The Ultimate Wave Tahiti."

Unfortunately it's yet another exclusive. Only 2014 Samsung 4K TVs are compatible. Every 2014 series of Samsung 4K/UHD TV features the necessary "DIRECTV 4K Ready TV with built-in RVU technology," according to the company's support site, including models like the HU9000 and HU8550. But no other TVs, including non-Samsung 4K TVs, or Samsung 4K TVs from 2013 like the F9000, are compatible.

Next year compatible TVs may launch from other TV makers. In a follow-up email, DirecTV told CNET "While specific announcements will come from each RVU Alliance TV manufacturer member, DIRECTV expects to see more TVs that are DIRECTV 4K Ready launching throughout 2015."

DirecTV subscribers with compatible TVs will also need a Genie HD DVR (model HR34 and above) to watch the videos.

If they do so and opt into the Genie Recommends feature, they'll automatically have two or more of the titles available immediately on their DVRs, according to a DirecTV spokesperson, who could not specify exactly which titles would be available immediately. Other titles must be downloaded to the DVR first, a process that "varies per title," according to DirecTV.

The prices for the VOD titles range from $3.99 to $15.99 each, and typical rental windows end at 48 hours.

DirecTV first mentioned its 4K service during a third-quarter earnings call November 6th. The company said a new satellite, DirecTV-14, will launch in December and go online in the first quarter of 2015, allowing expansion of its 4K offerings including "substantially greater VOD as well as live streaming."

The satellite broadcaster is often in the vanguard of new TV formats. It was among the first multi-channel providers to offer 1080p content in 2009, and in 2010 it debuted the first 24-hour 3D channel, much to my stomach's chagrin.

Comcast has said that by the end of 2014 customers of its Xfinity TV cable package who have Samsung 4K TVs will be able to launch an Xfinity TV 4K app directly on their TVs, letting them stream 4K movies and TV shows on demand.

Other sources of 4K include Netflix, which began delivering 4K streaming video in April; Amazon, which will also begin by the end of the year; and Sony with its FMP-X10 player, which was recently updated to work with non-Sony 4K TVs.

Updated with additional details from DirecTV.

Featured Video