Why the traditional broadcasting industry needs to get serious about 4K content

by on September 25, 2015

Stephan Jukic – September 25, 2015

The bottom line so far is that traditional media companies have been slow to adapt to the 4K UHD future and it almost seems as if the vast majority of the linear broadcasting industry is just waiting around either for something better than “mere” 4K resolution to come along, or they’re waiting for a market that’s absolutely free of risk to form.

At the same time, it seems that just about everyone is also hoping for increased standardization for 4K content and all its associated technologies to occur before they leap onboard.

However, the problem with this is in the simple fact that you don’t benefits from the rewards of the future by waiting for them, you benefit instead by building them from the beginning. In other words, if broadcasters want all of the above three to accelerate and come to fruition, they need to start participating much more in a landscape dominated by OTT streaming services, the TV manufacturers themselves and to a more limited extend, video delivery technology makers.

As far as waiting for more than just 4K resolution to arrive, the bottom line is that the even better technologies which will augment or surpass “ordinary” 4K are already here. We are already seeing the wider development of 4K augmented with the visually spectacular expanded contrast levels of high dynamic range (HDR), the development of superior color in the form of phosphor and quantum dot technologies and the advent of so-called “better pixels” for a quality of 4K video and 4K display technology that go well beyond what was available just over a year and a half ago. In other words, as far as “better than just 4K” improvements go there’s already plenty to work with, enough for years of consumer market entertainment delivery and steady further tweaking.

Standardization is also developing at a rapid pace and if the broadcast industry wants to see it streamline further still, its large market weight is exactly what they need to add to the recipe for faster results. The same goes for greater customer adoption of 4K as the next de facto gold standard of video resolution.

Yet here we are in 2015 and still we’re seeing a widespread hesitancy on the part of linear broadcast giants to get behind 4K more heavily. Instead, the current content landscape behind the resolution is entirely dominated by online streaming providers who are reaping both the profits of what only they currently deliver and the PR rewards of looking like the cutting-edge heroes of entertainment technology.

Services like Amazon Prime and Netflix are the real innovators in 4K content distribution right now, instead of broadcasters

Services like Amazon Prime and Netflix are the real innovators in 4K content distribution right now, instead of broadcasters

In fact, just a quick look at consumer reviews of most 4K TVs and other such display devices with UHD clearly shows the trending consumer perception of Netflix and similar companies as the real innovators on the market, instead of broadcasting companies. Phrases like “I’d love this TV, but only if I can get 4K with Netflix or Amazon on it” are common and the same sort of thing isn’t really being said about any major broadcast TV brand at the moment.

There are of course some notable exceptions to this conservatism in the linear broadcast industry: BT Sport has launched a live sports streaming service that offers 4K UHD sportscasts to subscribers over the web and both DirecTV and Comcast have also unveiled their own 4K content services. Comcast’s is called Xfinity and DirecTV’s service is being offered as a VOD add-on to their regular HD VOD subscription offers, but only to a limited range of customers with certain types of Sony 4K TVs. As for Comcast, their service is only available to Samsung 4K UHD TV models for the moment.

In other words, even in cases where a major broadcast operator is actively offering consumer market 4K content services, we’re seeing them do so in some of the most limited, un-innovative ways possible!

Broadcasters need to see that the future is here and needs more developmental help to really become a major source of profit for them, and they need to start looking at the prospects of multiscreen and streaming 4K media services. This might require some partnership with companies they normally wouldn’t partner with but if the traditional TV entertainment players can start investing seriously in the development of full-blown content services in obviously ascendant 4K resolution with all its constant video quality enhancements, they’ll both allow the current 4K entertainment market to grow much larger while also capturing much more of that market than they normally would if they allow the streaming services that currently dominate to keep expanding what they offer.

Yes, broadband capacity is a major challenge for traditional linear media providers but it’s also a challenge for the often much less capitalized streaming media providers like Netflix or Ultraflix and that hasn’t stopped them from growing as fast as they can. Furthermore, there are also plenty of intermediate solutions for getting UHD content to consumers more easily which all players can take. One example of this is Sony’s Video Unlimited 4K service, which offers the best possible 4K video quality to UHD TV owners without the need for extremely fast internet connection speeds by letting them download their movies and programming in 4K at their leisure.

Recent polls of webcast audiences have clearly shown a preference for 4K offers and in some cases as many as 90% of consumers polled responded that Yes, they would like to see broadcasters launch robust 4K ultra HD content services. The market of willing consumers is definitely there, it just needs to be given something they can really watch.

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  • Jimbo
    September 25, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Why would broadcasters make the jump from 720 to 4K when they have totally ignored 1080? It doesn’t add up.


    • Stephen
      September 26, 2015 at 8:39 am

      They may not make the jump directly to UHD so readily and have been notably leery of investing in it seriously but if 4K continues to ascend in popularity and distribution a degree of leapfrogging is certainly possible.


    • Willy12
      September 27, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      They haven’t ignored 1080. My entire tv package has had 70-80 HD channels for the last three years! I’m going to get a new TV soon , and yes, it will be a 4K smart tv because I’m going to need it for the next 5 or so years. I am all for a variety of smaller niche 4K channels, VOD and apps. Who care about the big companies, I like to see the underdogs win!


  • David Ridge
    September 27, 2015 at 3:43 am

    I am not at all that impressed with 4K. The resolution is way to sharp and detailed. If I eye balled a 4K TV at the Grand Canyon, The 4K reproduction would not be that same. With what I see with my own eyes, 4K is in no way similar to “real life”.


    October 28, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    what rubbish! the polls you site must be from sites like AVS forumsw that are filled with gearsluts. THE FACTS are that most connsumers dion’t give a damn about resolution beyond HD because in most parts of this country there is barely enough bandwidth to deliver TRUE 1080 HD.


    • Stephen
      October 28, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      By this logic, there was no point in moving towards HD since nobody ever gave a damn about that resolution either because at one time it was only available to a tiny percentage of the U.S market. Consumers learn to enjoy and desire what comes along as new if it shows a superior performance to an older technology. In this regard, 4K absolutely qualifies and the question of wider popularity is a technical one, certainly not a qualitative issue. Prices and ease of use have to streamline further and attendant wide consumer preference will follow as surely as it did for HD and Full HD.


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