Thursday, 04 October 2018 15:09

The curtain goes up on Foxtel in 4K on Channel 444 at last – but not Channel 888

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While 4K content has arrived or can be captured in sufficient quantity for Foxtel to launch a dedicated channel, the network is either betting that enough of the Asian part of its customer base simply isn't superstitious, or the Pay TV titan just isn't worried about it.

Have you ever been in a hotel in various Chinese cities, only to discover no floor 4, or 14, 24, 34, 44... etc?

The pronunciation of the number four in Mandarin and Cantonese is a homonym for the word "death", and if the Chinese are superstitious enough to avoid having floors in their buildings omitting this number, you can be certain that some people, at least, take it very, very seriously.

A recent News Corp article describes this as "tetraphobia", which, according to Wikipedia, "is the practice of avoiding instances of the number 4. It is a superstition most common in East Asian nations".

Given Australia's proximity to China and Asia and given our high levels of Asian immigration (which once scared Senator Pauline Hanson as much as certain Asian people are tetraphobic), I just can't understand why Foxtel would force potentially superstitious customers to type "death death death" every time they wanted to watch Foxtel's otherwise stunning 4K channel.

My suggestion at the Foxtel 4K launch (which you can see here in full, watch the morning version for my question) was that the company simply allow the channel to be accessible on Channel 888, a complete no-brainer of a good idea as it is well known that the number 8 is considered extremely lucky in Chinese, with 888 luckier still.

Personally, I am not tetraphobic, but when News Corp reports of the number 4 being bad news for real estate in Australia, it comes to various Asian peoples, the fear may well be completely irrational, but it is obviously very, very real.

I'm also a huge fan of Tetris, so I'm not tetrisphobic either, although I guess I am phobic towards not putting good ideas into practice, like making Channel 888 and then marketing the heck out of it to the Chinese community as Australia's more "fortun-8" and must-have television channel. 

News Corp quoted Carrie Law, chief executive and director of Juwai.com, the leading Chinese international real estate website, stating that "the number four ominously sounded like the word for death", and that “fourteen sounds like ‘certain death’ and 24 sounds like ‘easy death'. It’s considered bad luck and with good reason. Imagine what it would feel like to come home at the end of the day and see something like 'certain death' written on your front door.”

News Corp's article states "that’s why Chinese investors are chopping the number four out of Aussie properties and the fear is even pushing them to steer clear of suburbs with a four in the postcode", and quoting Law as saying: "For many Chinese it’s meaningless, but everyone is aware of it, and for some it’s important. For some people, it is very meaningful. But if it creates even a little bit of doubt in the buyer’s mind, the developer is rewarded by removing it.”

Now, I'll grant that a Foxtel subscription is not on the same level as buying or renting a home or apartment, and that any such fears are completely irrational, yet there it is. 

And the solution is so simple, at least to my mind – just make Channel 444 available on Channel 888, and it will be the luckiest TV channel in Australia! It's a 4K-ing simple solution which, at least for the time being, isn't on Foxtel's radar despite my very clear suggestion to them.

Indeed, if I were Foxtel, I'd be investigating just how many households in Chatswood or Haymarket or other Chinese enclaves have a Foxtel 4K box, and how often Channel 444 is being watched... the result could be ominous, or my worries might well be completely overblown.

So, with that bit of superstitious psychobabble out of the way, and with 8K TVs set to arrive in stores later this year to soothe the superstitious and often very wealthy souls of those so afraid of 4 that they haven't even purchased a 4K TV yet, what can you expect on Foxtel's new Channel 444?

Well, in what is another major milestone in Australian TV history this weekend when Foxtel brings live coverage of Sunday’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 Great Race across the finish line in 4K ultra high definition, the launch gives fans used to seeing the race in HD 4x reasons to be excited when the 4K footage hits their screens.

If you don't already have a satellite connection to Foxtel, you'll need to upgrade as this is the only way the company can guarantee 4K will arrive in ample bandwidth as the best 4K-ing picture quality.

In any case, we're told "the highly anticipated arrival of Foxtel in 4K for this weekend’s race will see history made on two fronts with the launch of Australia’s first ever dedicated 4K channel and the first ever 4K broadcast of the iconic race at Mt. Panorama".

"The 4K action kicks off on Foxtel’s newly launched 4K channel 444 on 7 October with a replay of the Top Ten Shootout, followed by a live broadcast of Sunday’s main event, both in 4K and, for the first time ever, with no ad breaks during racing."

Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany said, “The engines are revving and wait is over – this weekend Foxtel in 4K will immerse racing fans in an incredible pit-side experience as the colour and spectacle of Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 roars to life and leaps into living rooms across Australia like you’ve never seen it before.

“This history-making step in Australian broadcasting is just one of a host of new innovations that Foxtel is launching that set the gold standard for in-home entertainment, and even more are on the way with new announcements coming every month.”

Following the Great Race, Foxtel tells us its 4K channel will "continue to bring subscribers a host of 4K content including The Rolling Stones: Havana Moon, documenting the classic rock band’s historic concert in Havana, Cuba; The Big Wave Project, Tim Bonython’s award-winning masterpiece on the art of big wave riding; the musical genius of Pharrell Williams: Live from Hyde Park, nature documentaries, Spy in the Wild, Planet Earth II, and Deadly Australians".

"Over the next 12 months, Foxtel’s selection of unique 4K content will continue to grow, including the Australian 4K debut of live Cricket, which kicks off with the November 4, Australia v South Africa, as part of the Gillette One Day International (ODI) Series followed by every Australian men’s international ODIs and T20 matches plus every men’s Australian Test match on home soil along with a selection of BBL matches."

Foxtel says its "new, dedicated, 4K live channel comes as extra value being part of a Foxtel Platinum HD or Foxtel Sports HD subscription for customers with an iQ4" and that "the arrival of Foxtel’s 4K channel offers an unprecedented way to enjoy live sport, documentaries, movies and more, delivered through the iQ4, Foxtel’s most advanced streaming set top box via Australia’s only guaranteed 4K satellite signal".

You can learn more at the 4K section of Foxtel's site.

The company reminds us that access to its 4K channel "requires an iQ4 set top box, compatible HDMI cable and compatible 4K TV. Any other connected equipment must also be compatible with Foxtel’s 4K UHD Standard. Available to customers with Sports + HD packs starting in October 2018. For more info see Foxtel's compatibilty page. Foxtel and some services not available to all homes".


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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