Is UHD Ready for Primetime?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading
Although UHD is starting to come much more into focus, the next-gen TV format is not quite ready for its close-up yet.
Over the past couple of years, 4K-ready TV sets have begun flooding the retail market around the world. In the latest projections by IHS Inc. , for instance, consumer electronics manufacturers will ship slightly more than 17.6 million 4K TVs in North America this year, up from 11.7 million last year and 6.3 million sets in 2015. IHS projections call for that number to climb to more than 25.9 million TVs by 2020.
Further, in what it called "a banner year for 4K UHD TV," the Consumer Technology Association (formerly the Consumer Electronics Association) estimates that holiday shipments of 4K TVs reached 4.5 million units in the US last fall and accounted for 56% of all TV sales. The CTA also notes that the 4K UHD Blu-ray format sold its millionth disc last October, generating more than $25 million in consumer spending.
At the same time, UHD programming has been making its way onto more TV channels and pay-TV and OTT services. In two of the latest prominent examples, Fox Sports began broadcasting 4K sporting events on DirecTV last month and Layer3 TV started offering live, on-demand 4K science and nature programming earlier this month.
Moreover, the technical standards process for high dynamic range (HDR) and other imaging enhancements to UHD has been steadily moving along. As a result, IHS projects that US shipments of 4K TVs supporting HDR enhancements will scale 30 million units by 2020. (See TV's Paradox: No HDR Without 4K and Hurdles Ahead for 4K, HDR.)
Nevertheless, all that progress doesn't mean that UHD is ready for primetime quite yet. Nor will it be in the next year or two. Several looming obstacles remain, including the high bandwidth demands of UHD, the still limited amount of UHD content available and the drumbeat for greater security protection of premium services.
In a special breakfast workshop next week, we will look at what still stands in UHD's way and gauge the prospects for the coming UHD transition. The workshop, sponsored by Verimatrix Inc. , will feature leading tech executives from Layers3TV, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) and Verimatrix, among others. It will take place on the morning of Tuesday, March 21, just before the opening of our two-day Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies conference at the Curtis Hotel in Denver.
So, if you'll be in Denver next week sign up now for the What Still Stands in UHD'S Way workshop. It will sharpen your view of the 4K picture.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading