TV Makers might love HDR for another reason, to boost their bottom line on 4K TVs

by on May 14, 2015

Stephan Jukic – May 14, 2015

4K TVs started out as pricey toys for the more luxury minded buyer and then, as is typical, their prices (and profit margins) started to slide downwards.

Now, while these televisions are still definitely more expensive than their HDTV counterparts, their definitely falling into the realm of commodity electronics, even as new technologies make them better and also keep the prices of some models buoyant.

One of these technologies, and a crucial one for the next generation of 4K content is called High Dynamic Range, or HDR in short, and what it offers, when it arrives on the scene later in 2015, is ultra HD resolution but with a strong added dose of extraordinarily expanded contrast levels. As much as twice the contrast in fact.

What makes HDR so important in a technical and consumer oriented sense is that it creates a visual improvement which is immediately visible to any viewer at any distance on a 4K screen on any size. This is a big deal because 4K resolution alone isn’t actually that notable on TVs with screens of less than maybe 50 or 55 inches and even on larger screen TVs, UHD only becomes distinct at distances of less than 7 to 9 feet or so. Thus, with HDR, TV makers and content producers can both benefit from the hype of a visual technology that anybody can appreciate at first glance.

However, HDR might also be important in a bottom line sense too: TV makers, like all major consumer product manufacturers, are known for their habit of pushing new standards and new technologies in an effort to kick off whole new buying cycles for products whose newness allows for higher retail prices and higher profit margins.

This is exactly what might be happening with HDR and while it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is something that should give the would-be buyer of HDR-enabled TVs pause before deciding to throw down his or her dollars.

In other words, HDR may at least partly be the newest attempt by the TV electronics industry to convince buyers that their existing shiny new 4K TVs already need replacing with even more expensive models. Yes, some companies are offering hardware and even firmware upgrades which will make HDR capacity work without a new purchase but not all are doing this and even those that are certainly waste no effort in promoting their latest HDR-capable models in the 4K lineup.

Given the progression of previous efforts by the TV industry to do the same thing, we’ll just have to see how well they goad buyers into getting new and expensive HDR-capable 4K TVs. However, the effort is definitely being made.

Samsung's new line of SUHD 4K TVs is HDR enabled and comes at a higher ´price tag because of it

Samsung’s new line of SUHD 4K TVs is HDR enabled and comes at a higher ´price tag because of it

Fortunately however, for all sides, HDR really is a measurable beneficial technology and its added cost in terms of content delivery is not huge. Unlike 3D TV, which crashed, burned and really never gained much traction due to its impracticalities, HDR content enhancement does indeed create a simple, easily visible and clumsiness-free visual improvement. No ridiculous glasses needed, you only need look at the screen of an HDR TV to see what extended dynamic range does to the picture.

Furthermore, while HDR TVs will be pricey at first, they too will later fall in price and before they get around to doing that, owners of SDR (standard dynamic range) TVs will still be able to enjoy the same 4K content as ever, just without the HDR augmentation.

Finally, unlike 4K resolution itself, which is data-heavy and requires considerable changes in broadband and DVB broadcast infrastructure to get delivered effectively, HDR adds only a small extra data-load of encoded information to existing 4K transmissions of an type. Thus, it’s implementation and rapid wide adaptation should flow more smoothly than 4K has to date with content delivery.

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