Even if you are a total Sportsball hater, you’re likely to get caught up in some of the Olympic excitement. Whether you want to see if Usain Bolt can remain the fastest man alive, want to see how many pounds of gold Michael Phelps comes away with, or just take perverse pleasure in watching people row through fecal-filled waters or see how many people contract Zika, the 2016 Rio Olympics offers a little something for everyone.
If you are a satellite TV owner, both DISH and DirecTV have upped their Olympic coverage to give viewers even more choices. As I have a DISH Hopper3 at my home and a DirecTV Genie HR54 at my custom installation showroom, I thought I’d compare both providers’ Olympic offerings and see who takes the 2016 Broadcast Gold.
Olympic Viewing App
Press the RED button on DirecTV and you’ll bring up its Enhanced View features, where you can browse different things while still enjoying live action of whatever sport you were watching. I like that the enhanced view shows you the local time and temperature in Rio and gives you a handy way to find out when your favorite events will be televised. You can also click on Medal Count to see how many medals each country has won. Even cooler, you can then click on that country and see which events they medaled in. I do wish they had a way to browse by specific athletes or see how an athlete has performed, but maybe in Tokyo…
Open the DISH Olympic app and you’ll be presented with this screen. Similar to DirecTV, you can continue watching live action while you navigate around. I like how the medal count is right there, but you can’t drill in and see what events the medals are from. You can check out the schedule of upcoming events at the bottom, but no way to search by a specific event. There is also a nice news scroll at the bottom of the screen to kick up with Olympics-related news. While I think the DISH layout is cleaner and nicer looking, making DirecTV’s kinda 8-bit in comparison, it doesn’t give the depth of coverage of the DirecTV app.
Olympic App Gold goes to: DirecTV
Tune to DirecTV channel 205, and you will get the NBC Olympics TV Experience. This channel shows up to eight full-motion tiles of action currently happening. This is a great way to monitor multiple events at once, or to quickly browse what is available. Oddly, it doesn’t show the main NBC channel, which usually has the marquee events. Also, I didn’t like that the only channel that plays audio is NBC Sports in the upper left hand corner with no ability to pick a different audio feed. Still, up to eight channels at once ain’t shabby…
The NBC Olympics TV Experience on DISH “only” shows six channels, eliminating the full-time soccer and basketball feeds. One thing I really liked about DISH’s app is that I could select which channel delivered the audio AND I could see a description of what was happening on each channel. You can also immediately tune to or record any of the channels right from this screen which is a nice touch.
DISH definitely uses some performance-enhancing technology in its Hopper3 in the form of Sports Bar Mode. In SBM you can watch four 1080p channels of your choosing in full motion on a 4K display. Select your four favorite events, or just one event you like and three other channels and enjoy. You can toggle the audio to listen to your favorite channel or jump around during commercials. On a 65-inch or larger screen, this is picture-in-picture on steroids! Totally legal tech steroids!
Multi-View Gold goes to: DISH
Both DISH and DirecTV offer multiple ways to catch as much of the action as your eyes can possibly handle. Beyond NBC, CNBC, Golf, Bravo, NBCSN, MSNBC, USA, and Telemundo, both providers let you enjoy a full-time basketball and soccer channel showing previous matches. Subscription to either DISH or DirecTV gives you access to NBC’s Sports app as well as NBCOlympics.com coverage where you can live stream virtually every single event as it happens. That’s right, you never need miss even single second of air pistol or dressage!
Olympic Coverage Gold goes to: Tie
Lest you get a big head and think that America is atop the world’s technology heap, Japan’s NHK wants to let you know that it is filming certain events in 8K and that it is available for viewing—in 8K!—in parts of Japan. So, you know, chants of “USA in 4K!” will only get us silver this go ‘round.
This also leads me to speculation over why the 4K coverage seemed to have the motto, “All Judo, all the time!” Day after day I would tune into Dish channel 146 or DirecTV channel 106 and would see Judo. The sun would set, the sun would rise, and there throughout it all was Judo.
White clad Judoka grappling with blue clad Judoka. I learned more about shidos (slight penalties), yukos (partial lacking throw), waza-aris (superior throw) and ippons (full throw) than I ever wanted to know. I longed for a giant spinning roundhouse kick or even a heart-stopping dragon-fist punch, but, alas, those aren’t things that happen in Judo. And yet, as much as I didn’t care about Judo, I was unable to turn away because the picture just looked so gorgeous, clearly better than any of the other channels in HD. Shots had incredible depth, dimension, and focus. Colors were vibrant and details razor sharp. Where I questioned whether The Masters 4K coverage was actually much better than HD, here it was clearly, massively better.
So, back to my speculation on why there was so much Olympic 4K Judo. 1) Who was supplying the cameras? NHK from Japan. 2) What sport does Japan have a chance to dominate in? Judo. 3) What event doesn’t take a ton of different cameras and angles? Judo. What arena has a big indoor area where you can set up your new 8K broadcasting gear? Judo.
As both DISH and DirecTV appeared to be using the identical 4K coverage and quality looked as identical as I could compare between my 65-inch Sony XBR65X930D at home and our 100-inch Sony VPLVW365ES at our showroom, this was a close match as to who would win the gold. For the tie-break, we have to go to technical merit.
On the one hand, I did like that DirecTV was advertising its 4K content and had a channel dedicated to talking about it and directing viewers to 106.
But on the other, DISH offered its 4K content on demand so you could go back and watch every Judo grapple and throw you missed!
Olympic 4K Coverage Gold goes to: DISH (but really it’s Judo)
Whichever your provider, the coverage of the Olympics this year has been unprecedented and the quality of 4K image—and a glimpse of 8K!—points toward a terrific future for TV viewing.