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What’s coming up next for ultra HD 4K content? It depends on the stakeholders

by on February 5, 2015

Stephan Jukic – February 05, 2015

That 4K TVs and ultra HD content are on the rise and ready to dominate the world of digital entertainment is now pretty much without mainstream debate. Even the former naysayers who predicted that 4K would go the way of 3DTV (extinction) are growing quiet on the issue.

Furthermore, according to research conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association, a full third of consumers are expected to buy themselves a new 4K UHD TV within the next three years. So far in 2014, sales of 4K TVs reached 2 million in the North American market and are expected to grow by a further 208% in 2015, to more than 4 million units sold.

All of these statistics are great for UHD but they also bring up the question, how exactly is the wider ecosystem around the technology preparing, particularly when it comes to 4K content, without which the TVs are a lot less attractive buying options.

So far at least, it seems that the growth of UHD television sales is not only creating but also urgently requires a broad partnership among a number of related industries. These include filmmakers, TV makers, content creators and broadcaster/distributors.

So far, since the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, just such a paertnership was created through the cooperation of experts from companies like Sony, Netflix, DirecTV, and Comcast among others, called the UHD Alliance, the group was formed specifically with the intention of spreading 4K further and building a strong ecosystem of content and supporting technology around it.

Because creating a powerful and robust ultra HD ecosystem requires a lot of diverse investment and innovation beyond simply building awesome new TVs, the companies of the UHD Alliance are all trying to play their part in the development of a wider whole.

Comcast, for example, had begun developing the UHD capacities of its own network as early as 2012 and is now already opening up a 4K subscription service that, although limited, should grow considerably in the next year.

As for DirecTV, the subscription broadcast media company is moving in an even more ambitious direction and aiming for satellite 4K broadcasting at extremely high transmission speeds for millions of potential customers. The company has already launched the two satellites that are expected to deliver this service to 4K TV owners as of mid to late 2015 and may even be the first U.S broadcaster to offer live sportscasts in 4K, something that isn’t yet available to the public anywhere in the world.

Sporting events like the annual Superbowl will really draw attention to 4K resolution if broadcast in UHD

Sporting events like the annual Superbowl will really draw attention to 4K resolution if broadcast in UHD

Netflix and Amazon, both of whom offer streaming online 4K content have also done their part to move the technology forward by pledging to film all of their shows and original movies as of now in native 4K, thus hoping to entice more consumers into buying one of the TVs with the knowledge that high quality content is definitely available and growing in scope.

Of course, 4K also isn’t just about resolution. And as many of those involved in the industry know, the focus on quality has to go beyond simply having more pixels and also focus on other visual technologies like High Dynamic Range, wider color gamuts and much higher frame rates. All of these are currently being developed and all of them will play a part in the overall ecosystem being built around 4K.

Furthermore, the new 4K content that does emerge will be filling a space in which such a wide range of advanced visual technologies are being put together, meaning that the quality of that content will be much higher than that of what has always been released for HD or lower resolutions in TVs and other media.

In fact, this alone is one of the biggest shifts that 4K is bringing about because for the first time ever, many owners of these TVs are seeing themselves in a situation where the movies made for the big screen now look better on their UHD TVs than they did in theaters. This is the exact opposite of what has always classically been the case with cinema productions that were later downgraded for release to home viewing audiences.

This massive jump in quality is what will make content itself the real “killer app” for the explosion of the entire 4K media and display market but only as long as the various players in the content production and distribution ends of the entire entertainment industry can see the real potential of ultra HD and join in on the bandwagon that the UHD Alliance is moving forward in its push for more open standards and faster production growth.

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