4K/8K Video

4K TV Not Ready for OTA Broadcast

Looking for 4K Ultra HD content you can get over the air? It could be a while.

Ahead of IBC this week, the Ultra HD Forum has released the latest version of its UHD guidelines, known as the Phase A guidelines, to the public. Forum members previously had access to the Phase A document. But for the first time it's now available to any interested party, offering details on what's in and what's out in the early stages of 4K UHD TV development.

Beyond the technical elements of UHD video outlined by the Ultra HD Forum, the Phase A document also describes the use cases that are currently within the scope of the Forum's work. During Phase A, the Forum notes that it is only focusing on content delivered over the Internet (over the top, or OTT) and by multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). The Forum plans to expand its focus to include UHD video delivered over the air (OTA) in the future, but OTA broadcasts are not part of Phase A guidelines for development and interoperability work.

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Early development and distribution of UHD content have proceeded very differently from the introduction of high-definition television a decade or more ago. Not only are OTA broadcasts not a priority, but even among service providers, 4K UHD TV services are being delivered almost, if not entirely, over IP.

When the HD era began, cable companies had to stand up whole channels worth of linear HD content and carry out major upgrades to their QAM-based network infrastructure. But with IP, there is a lot more flexibility to perform incremental upgrades and deliver select UHD broadcasts, like coverage from the Rio Olympics. (See AT&T & Dish Mix 4K Into Olympics Coverage and Comcast Shows Off Rio in HDR... in Philly.)

"QAM to cable is kind of like TDM is to telco," noted Andy Smith, chief architect for cable MSOs at Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) in a recent interview. "Any kind of new service that's introduced (like 4K TV)... won't leverage QAM."

Smith pointed out that the transition to HD TV required a major commitment on behalf of service providers.

"Now for them to introduce 4K as a service, they don't have to do that big lift and shift," said Smith. "They can introduce it as another application riding over [the network]."

The advantages of IP-based delivery may, ironically, reduce the industry's "all in" commitment to the next generation of TV technology, or at least lead to more of a phased delivery of new Ultra HD content. IP systems are certainly reducing the pressure to broadcast UHD content over the air or even over traditional cable networks.

At IBC, the Ultra HD Forum will further discuss its UHD development work. Within the Phase A guidelines just released, the Forum also describes the technical components that are currently defined as part of Ultra HD TV. The definition of UHD TV in its first incarnation includes: resolution up to 2160p, a wider palette of colors known as wide color gamut (WCG), high dynamic range (HDR) technology for greater brightness and picture contrast, 10-bit color offering more bits of color per pixel, next-generation audio with a preference for 5.1 or channel-based Immersive Audio and the inclusion of closed captioning and subtitles.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

Mitch Wagner 9/18/2016 | 8:36:18 PM
Re: Future As a friend who works in the TV industry says: I watch the program, not the TV. 
kq4ym 9/16/2016 | 8:38:15 AM
Re: Future That's a good point. The higher definition seems to outweigh any "realism" through 3D espcially when extra viewing equipment is necessary to produce and see stereo programming. Keeping it simple is still the rule viewer want. My guess is IP is still going to be the way to go for some time for those coming into the 4K industry.
danielcawrey 9/7/2016 | 9:36:35 AM
Re: Future Everything is going to be IP at some point. With providers looking for ways to offer customers upgrades, things like HDR and VR are going to require IP. It's going to be the only way to deliver great content in the future. 
Communic71442 9/7/2016 | 7:16:42 AM
Re: Future There are several reasons why UHD is different to 3D. The 2 most important are that UHD is so immersive that it gives 3D less wow-effect and the most important is that UHD improves all content all the time, wheras 3D was only good for some content some of the time...
Communic71442 9/7/2016 | 7:14:35 AM
Re: Future Of course there is a chicken and egg situation with content and equipement/infrastructure. But we have at least as much UHD content now as we did HD content back when that started taking off. All Hollywood studios are backing UHD, and there isn't a broadcaster on the planet that isn't either testing or looking into it. There are at least 30 live TV 4K platforms around the wolrd today.
242ak 9/7/2016 | 5:42:57 AM
Re: Future I think you also have to factor in the cost of maintaining multiple production lines for TV manufacturers. If you go to the store today, it's unlikely if not impossible that you will be able to buy a tube TV or an SD TV. These are gone. Of course that's due to a lack of demand now that flat panel HDTVs are widely available at comparatively low prices. But it's also because manufacturers, recognising that HDTV was coming simply shut down their SD lines. It didn't make sense to keep making those TVs, it was better to switch to HD production and eat a slight premium for a bit until economies of scale brought down the cost. That's already starting to happen with UHD - the HDTV line-up at the electronics store is starting to disappear. So replacement cycles -typically US homes buy a new TV every 4 years or so- will drive UHD penetration. You don't have to want it, you just won't have a choice. 
KBode 9/6/2016 | 4:37:14 PM
Re: Future Yeah I think you have it right. It's kind of like faster processors. You may not need one now, but that speed is what the future will look like. I think the looming Xbox One and Playstation 4 4K-upgraded boxes will go a long way toward driving demand, as will the new 4K Chromecast and the new suite of 4K Rokus. I see later this year early next seeing a big bump in adoption. 
msilbey 9/6/2016 | 4:30:03 PM
Re: Future Nobody seems to think it'll be a dud like 3D, and over time, consumers will make the upgrade to 4K TVs. But the content is coming so slowly, that it's hard to see 4K as a major draw for a TV upgrade at this point. Of the people who want to buy new TVs, many will buy 4K sets, especially as the prices continue to decline. But I think there will have to be a lot more content before 4K starts driving significant new TV sales.
TV Monitor 9/6/2016 | 4:22:08 PM
Re: Future Mitch Wagner

LG and Samsung will be happy to sell you a 4K TV set with ATSC 3.0 receiver next year. It won't come cheap, but you can buy one at Best Buy.


Korea to Launch ATSC 3.0 Broadcasts in 2017

LG, Korean broadcasters conduct first live end to end broadcast of next-gen standard February 24, 2016

SEOUL—Several Korean broadcasters announced this week that they will begin transmitting ATSC 3.0 OTA broadcasts starting in February 2017. The news comes after the two broadcast networks, SBS and MBC—in conjunction with LG Electronics, ETRI and several equipment vendors—announced the first successful live end-to-end ATSC 3.0 broadcast in the country, and represents perhaps the best confirmation yet that the ATSC 3.0 next generation broadcast standard is on schedule to be completed within the next 12 months.
Mitch Wagner 9/6/2016 | 4:06:46 PM
Future Mari, what does your crystal ball say is in for the future of 4K? is this something consumers will gradually move to as they buy new TVs, will there be a surge of demand at some point, or will 4K be a dud like 3D?
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