What Can we Expect for 4K Broadcast Content?

by on October 18, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – October 18th, 2014

4K is apparently on everyone’s mind these days, at least in the media, electronics and content delivery industries.

From countries like India, to Europe, to North America and most of all in the East Asian markets, companies of all types in the above industries are gearing up for 4K content infrastructure and gadget production at all levels.

However, the big issues around 4K still remain; Is there enough content available to justify the still expensive TVs and when will more be available across different mediums?

A recent discussion panel at the MIPCOM Conference in Cannes, France titled “What do buyers want in 4K?” covered exactly these themes.

Present and discussing the central theme of buyers and 4K during the discussion were a number of major representatives in the industry. These included EVP of programming for Sky Deutschland Gary Davey, director of future media at France Télévisions Eric Scherer, Atlantic Productions director of operations Ruth Sessions and representatives from Red Bull Media House and still other companies.

Discussing the general prospects of 4K technology worldwide, the Sky Deutschland executive claimed that his company is excited about the massive changes that content will undergo thanks to 4K media. Davey also claimed that, while his company hasn’t decided on a launch date for its own 4K services, they are “very committed” to the concept.

These are the same sentiments that were echoed by Eric Scherer of France Télévisions and the others at the 4K panel. The general accord among them was one of support for 4K and large plans for near future broadcasting in the medium. Furthermore, Scherer in particular had a lot to say about the need for fighting against newer digital media entrants into the content market. He was of course referring to companies like Netflix and Amazon Prime, both of which are now expanding into the European content market.

According to Scherer, the mainstream European broadcasters such as France Télévisions need to fight these overseas entrants on their own 4K turf as soon as possible. These are strong words, but the fact remains that Netflix and Amazon at least already have existing 4K content streams ready for delivery and are making more original programming right now, some of it even geared specifically to European audiences.

However, the interesting thing about the 4K content market as a whole is that its take-up has been much faster so far than that of HD when it first came out. The big question around this trend, however, is one of who is causing that take-up to move forward most? Is it the electronics industry giants, the broadcasters and content producers or the consumers themselves?

According to Davey of Sky Deutschland, “people just love the idea of big screen viewing with higher resolution” and this is pushing 4K Ultra HD forward from several different sides of the market.

According to the Red Bull Media House representative, Ruth Sessions, content creators today are interested in making entertainment that is future-proofed for multiple platforms, including those that are still in development, and 4K is the ideal filming solution for this. This is why many movie and show producers have actually been using the format for several years already, well before 4K TVs even arrived onto the consumer market.

Furthermore, several those present at the MIPCOM presentation agreed that one of the big movers for 4K content’s growing popularity will be sports. Which people can immerse themselves in much better when watching in Ultra HD, according to some at the panel discussion.

MIPCOM Hsoting discussions about 4K content

MIPCOM conference in Cannes where the European Broadcasters discussed their views on 4K content

Nonetheless, for many professional content producers and even more so broadcasters of terrestrial and satellite media, 4K remains an expensive format to adopt and this is slowing penetration down somewhat. However, according to Scherer, “the cost depends on the category of the content. It is expensive but not multiple of costs. The cost increases also because of multiple use of cameras”.

In essence this means that 4K will definitely percolate down to smaller broadcasters but it will take a bit longer for this to happen than some people expect and a lot of content will be cherry picked for 4K production before it becomes a more standard format for all content types.

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