Streaming Video and 4K: Trends we can look forward to in 2015

by on December 29, 2014

Stephan Jukic – December 29, 2014

Online video is extremely popular and as far as consumers are concerned, the bigger the resolution, the better. This is where new developments like the 4K streams of Netflix and Amazon, increased use of HEVC encoding, MPEG-DASH and the proliferation of more powerful internet connectivity are becoming a very large part of the overall home entertainment picture.

Thanks to these emerging trends and others, we’re not only going to see a much broader development of streaming entertainment in 2014, we’re also going to see 4K related streaming technologies and services grow considerably. Consumers want this, broadcasters want this and content creators would also love to see their ultra HD recordings and live casts reach homes in the kind of resolution that really makes heads turn.

With that in mind, here are 4 crucial trends in streaming 4K ultra HD content that we can likely expect in the year around the corner.

Greatly Expanded 4K Content Selection

Netflix has been offering 4K streams of various TV shows and movies since April of 2014 and as of December, it was joined by Amazon Prime Instant Video’s new 4K streaming service in the race for more UHD content over the internet. In addition to these two major players, the last 4 months have seen the arrival of streaming and VoD content in 4K from a plethora of other broadcasters including DirecTV, Comcast, UltraFlix, Sony Unlimited Instant Video and M-Go amongst others.

Every single one of these content broadcasters is planning on expanding their selection of 4K entertainment in 2015 and DirecTV has even launched two satellites that will allow a much more robust satellite streamed 4K delivery capacity. The expansion of content options in 4K is looking great.

The First Widely Broadcast Live 4K Streams

Live broadcasts of sports events have already been conducted by several broadcasters in 4K resolution but so far, all of these have been strictly limited beta productions that were delivered to tiny audiences. Sony, working in cooperation with the BBC and several other companies, delivered several FIFA 2014 World Cup matches to theater audiences in the U.K and Sky Deutschland conducted even smaller live test broadcasts in UHD for a tiny German test audience in recent months.

These companies are only two of the major players working on making these kinds of live 4K feeds viable and in 2015 we’re almost certain to see some of the first widespread commercial broadcasts of live sports events in 4K. At the very soonest, this might happen even before the summer given that DirecTV’s two new satellites are now in orbit and were launched with live 4K broadcasting as an major part of their duties.

Wider Adoption of ultra-high speed Broadband Internet Connectivity

Given the massive data loads that 4K streams entail even when compressed through HEVC or other video encoding algorithms, truly fast high-speed internet connectivity is crucial to their wider proliferation. ISPs and content broadcasters are painfully aware of this fact and there is a race beginning to deliver ever faster connectivity to consumers, particularly in major metropolitan markets.

On the one hand, this means an expansion in the number of homes that can enjoy access to internet speeds that at least consistently cover the minimum 25Mbps necessary for reliable ultra HD streams, and on the other hand, some ISPs are even going as far as introducing ultra-fast connectivity of 500 Mbps or more to subscribers in some areas. One notable example of this latter development is the competition between Google and AT&T in Austin, Texas for garnering customers for their respective 1Gbps internet packages.

Services like Google Fiber are offering internet speeds of as much as 1 gigabit to select customers

Services like Google Fiber are offering internet speeds of as much as 1 gigabit to select customers

The First 4K Streams to Mobile Devices

The first mobile phones with 4K screen displays are virtually guaranteed to go on sale in 2015 and with this ability to actually render UHD video in its native resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels will come an increased demand for streaming 4K content that’s playable on 4K phones.

For those whose WiFi connections allow them to actually manage 4K streams, the first ultra HD content from YouTube at the very least will be hitting the screens of their 4K mobile phone screens at some point in 2015.

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