It might come at the end of this year, or maybe at the end of 2017, but Cisco SVP Conrad Clemson believes the industry is about to hit an inflection point in Ultra HD TV adoption.
Recalling an earlier moment in his career, Clemson explained recently that he's seeing the same level of activity around 4K/UHD TV today that he observed with high-definition television ten years ago. The critical date he remembers is December 26, 2006.
"That was the day HD happened," said Clemson. "And I jest you not, you can look at the numbers, and it exploded. What happened? Dad got the new TV. He plugged it in and everybody watched high definition and the world changed."
Clemson thinks 4K TV is on the same track today, and that a post-holiday boom for UHD adoption could happen as early as this year.
"We've got a set of vectors that are happening right now," noted Clemson. "We're at one of the watershed moments."
For Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), evidence of 4K TV's ascension includes the four customers that have already launched 4K services this year. None of these service providers are in the US, but across Europe, the Middle East and India, Clemson says 4K is already happening.
There are other signs of progress too. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) today announced that it's adding new technical specifications for High Dynamic Range (HDR) into its standards for next-generation television. Specifically the ITU has introduced HDR-TV Recommendation BT.2100, which expands on the improved color fidelity already described in the organization's UHD TV Recommendation BT.2020. (See ITU Unveils New HDR Standard for TV.)
This means that the ITU is enhancing the impact of the current UHD TV standard by pairing it with a new HDR standard. This is important because there's broad industry consensus that the addition of HDR technology -- which makes images appear brighter and more vivid -- is more likely to drive consumer adoption of new televisions than UHD alone. (See Lack of HDR Standards Threatens 4K Market.)
In the US, 4K TV adoption is still relatively limited, largely because of a lack of content. But that's starting to change.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has now broadcast several live sporting events in 4K through its DirecTV subsidiary, and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is promising to deliver some 4K/HDR coverage of the 2016 Olympic Games at special demonstration screenings later this summer. Plus, Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) are both pushing out 4K content as part of their over-the-top streaming services. (See Tipping Point for 4K Video? and Comcast Plans HDR Screenings for Rio Games.)
If Clemson and Cisco are right, the dawn of a new 4K era across the US is just around the corner.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading