EPB's new Fi TV options
Channel package prices:
* Bronze select: $14.99 a month for 18 channels, plus video on demand with 1,000 titles
* Silver Select: $67.99 a month for 90 channels, plus VOD with 6,000 titles
* Gold Select: $80.99 a month for 163 channels and 51 music choices, plus VOD with 12,000 titles
* Standard: $3.99 a month for high definition TV connection and $12.99 a month for four TV connections
* Advanced: $6.99 a month for high definition TV, smart view, and DVR service for one TV and $21.99 for up to four TVs
* Ultimate: $9.99 a month for 4K TV, smartview, DVR and Timeshift, and $29.99 for up to four TVs
Additional premium channels
* HBO - $13.99 a month
* Cinemax - $13.99 a month
* Stars - $13.99 a month
* TMC - $13.99 a month
* Showtime - $13.99 a month
* Encore - $6.99 a month
* Latino - $4.99 a month
* Sports package - $4.99 a month
EPB is adding the next generation of television service to its video lineup at the same time as its basic Fi TV customers are getting enhanced options for video recording and high-definition TV.
Ahead of the summer Olympics in Brazil next week, EPB announced Friday it will begin offering 4K ultra high definition viewing to the Chattanooga market with its Fi TV Select. The new service will give consumers more options for both the channels they receive and the quality and recording options they have.
Previously, EPB's video service provided high-definition TV and its top DVR recording options only to those who bought the premium service with nearly 200 channels. The new plan, which will begin Monday, allows consumers who get only the basic 18-channel Bronze plan also to get HD TV and DVR service.
"Our customers are really expecting HD to be a normal part of their service," EPB President David Wade told utility directors Friday at the monthly board meeting. "Our customers also tell us they want more flexibility of choice."
Wade said customers would really like to be able to choose their own channel lineup on an a la carte basis, "but our programming agreements don't allow us to do that at this time."
Even higher screen definition
The 4K television service also debuts Monday. The technology displays images at over 8 million pixels (3,840 x 2,160), providing picture resolution roughly four times that of current HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels).
The service requires a new 4K-accessible television set and is now available only for a limited number of programs and streaming shows, such as those offered by Netflix, Amazon Prime and Vudu, and new 4K Blu-ray discs and players. The Dish Network, which announced a 4K satellite receiver at last year's Consumer Electronics Show, is beginning 4K shipments this year and DirectTV has started promoting its 4K service in a big way.
"It's the chicken and egg thing," tech analyst Tim Bajarin, of Creative Strategies, told USA Today earlier this year. "There haven't been enough 4K TVs sold to warrant the investment from the broadcast networks."
But the price of 4K television sets, like high-definition sets a decade ago, is coming down rapidly. Amazon lists more than 200 types of televisions offering 4K priced under $1,000.
NBC also is planning on some 4K service for the XXXI Summer Olympic Games in Rio to cable, satellite, telco providers and other partners. The 83 hours of coverage will be made available on one-day delay and will include 4K UHD footage from the opening and closing ceremonies, swimming, track and field, basketball, the men's soccer final and judo.
One event from the previous day's competition will be provided daily from Monday through Aug. 22, the day after the Games conclude.
Going back in time
Also next week, EPB will introduce an option allowing viewers to play any of the top network shows broadcast in the past 24 hours. The Timeshift service will be available on 25 popular channels up to 24 hours from when the shows are aired.
"You won't have to record these shows to be able to call them up and watch them on your own schedule," Wade said.
The changes are the biggest for EPB's video service in more than six years, he said.
The new 4K service and extra recording options are possible because of the fiber optic network the utility built in 2010 to enhance its electric grid. It provides a bigger pipeline into homes to handle data needed for the new services. EPB also has added more computer storage capability for shows and programming, CEO Harold DePriest said.
"We've made some capital investments as we try to continue to improve our service options and meet customer service options," DePriest said.
Wade said Fi TV customers don't have to change their service and no price changes are in the works for current plans. But the new options give users new customizing choices:
First, customers must choose a package of TV channels (either 18-channel Bronze, 89-channel Silver or 162-channel Gold).
Then they will choose a features package — high definition or the new 4K service, along with different options for DVR and Timshift services.
Consumers also may buy additional premium channels, such as the sports or Latino packages.
The new Fi TV Select will come with free installation, EPB spokesman John Pless said.
The 4K service is available for a limited number of satellite TV channels, but so far the higher-definition TV is not yet available in Chattanooga on Comcast cable.
Comcast spokeswoman Sara Jo Walker said the cable giant has content available on demand via Xfinity in its UHD app on Samsung and LG Smart TVs.
Comcast also offers a cloud-based interactive television service, the X1 platform, that transforms TV into an interactive and integrated experience. For the Olympics, next week, Comcast will unveil new technology through its X1 platform and X1 voice remote that offers its customers the ability to customize their viewing selections.