France to broadcast terrestrial TV in 4K UHD only from 2029

Mike Wheatley

France is hosting next year’s Summer Olympics and has said the entire event will be broadcast in 4K UHD resolution on its terrestrial TV channels. The event is therefore a kind of test ahead of a wider UHD 4K rollout that will result in its HD signal being switched off completely in 2029.


Whereas most countries have not even switched off their SD broadcast signals, France is paving the way forward towards a future of superior broadcast quality. The country has already cut its SD signals forever, and by setting a date to turn off its HD broadcasts, it’s setting the pace for others to follow, including the TV broadcast industry itself.

The news comes from Ultra HD 4K News via Thierry Fautier, the former president of the Ultra HD Forum industry organization, who explained that the decision to switch off the HD TV signal will free up broadcasting capacity for 4K UHD.

The 2024 Summer Olympics will be broadcast in 4K UHD on the France 2 and France 3 channels, becoming the first major sporting event in the country to be delivered into every home in higher resolution.

According to Ultra HD 4K news, it’s expected that around 20 million households in France will own a 4K TV set by the middle of next year, when the Olympics is staged. That amounts to almost 76% of the TVs in the country, Fautier said. However, it’s unclear what percentage of those TVs have the right specifications to support 4K broadcasts, such as HEVC decoding.

Following the Olympics, France 2 and France 3 will continue to broadcast other major sports events in 4K UHD. In the longer term, they plan to slowly phase out HD broadcasts, switching fully to 4K UHD by 2029. It’s expected that around 95% of all French households will own a 4K TV by that time.

France is therefore set to become a world pioneer in the transition from HD to UHD resolution on terrestrial television networks. Although 4K TVs have been around for a good number of years already, and now even 4K TVs are coming to the fore, the vast majority of terrestrial TV content is still broadcast in SD or HD resolution. Moreover, most video streaming content is streamed at lower than 4K quality, with companies like Netflix and Amazon only offering 4K to premium subscribers at a higher cost.

With LG Electronics dropping its support for ATSC 3.0 4K Tuners in the U.S., and the likes of Samsung and Sony also mulling such a move, the future of digital 4K broadcasting becomes all the more uncertain.

France’s decision to abandon HD and force every TV company that operates there to support ATSC 3.0 and 4K as standard may help to give the industry the push it needs. At present, many countries are stuck in a chicken and egg situation, with broadcasters not willing to move to 4K without TV hardware in place, and TV hardware makers unwilling to move to 4K without support from broadcasters.

Besides looking at standardizing on 4K UHD broadcasts, France is also looking at plans to broadcast terrestrial TV content in HDR10, with Dolby AC-4 as standard to support higher-quality, channel-based audio and Dolby Atmos support.