More than 350 million UHD TVs are expected to be in homes across the world by 2019, with the biggest growth in China, followed by North America and Western Europe.
Paul Jackson, practice lead, media and entertainment at researcher Ovum, told an audience at OTTtv World Forum in London today that there already is enough 4K content available to drive the technology to consumers, but stressed that transmission to the home “is where things could go horribly wrong.”
Jackson said most new content already is being recorded with enough data to deliver it in 4K, and pointed out that content shot on 35mm film – movie quality from the ‘40s and ‘50s – easily can be remastered to deliver high-quality 4K to consumers.
“There’s no shortage of content, the content is there,” he said, although he noted that content digitally recorded in the ‘80s and ‘90s in SD and even HD likely won’t translate well to 4K.
Ingestion of content to get ready to transmit, he said, will require significant investment, but isn’t likely to be a deal breaker.
Transmission, on the other hand, is problematic.
Jackson said most consumers don’t yet have the 20 Mbps Internet speeds to their homes needed for delivery of early UHD content via the Internet and said the UHD streams will require the equivalent of four HD channel slots to deliver a single UHD channel. The bottleneck may be breeched by a combination of strategies, including the use of consumer premises equipment (CPSs) as storage for 4K content downloaded in advance.
“CPE will be helpful as storage for off-peak distribution,” Jackson said, noting that
caching in the home will be a stopgap measure until high-speed broadband become ubiquitous.
Pundits generally agree that offering UHD content, specifically high-value sports and hit movies in the 4K format, will be key to operators reducing churn and even in attracting cord-never Millennials back to pay TV.
Some satellite operators already have begun advanced tests with UHD delivery, including some early content offerings, and DOCSIS 3.1 will help cable operators keep pace. The need to have UHD content for competitive reasons likely also will prompt telcos to further invest in fiber to the home (FTTH) or node (FTTN) build outs.
“UHD justifies the increased investment,” Jackson said.
As to UHD suffering the same fate as 3D, not to worry, Jackson said.
“It's not another 3D,” he said. “UHD is going to happen (and) will end up in most people’s homes.”
But, he noted, high-dynamic-range TV is a “looming threat” to UHD, although it’s unlikely to interfere with UHD growth.
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