UHD currently a ‘marketing play,’ but operators see it as necessary

By Jim O'Neill on Nov 09 2015 at 7:00 AM

Ultra HD isn’t yet being driven by consumers, a panel at OTTtv World Summit said today. Instead, it’s a corporate-generated trend that nonetheless is gaining traction with consumers.

“There certainly are initiatives launching,” said Godert Burghard, VP of marketing at content security firm Irdeto. “But operators are hesitant”about investing in the new format too aggressively and are dragging their feet until more content is available.

Still, companies like Comcast in the United States and BSkyB in the United Kingdom have begun to push UHD, both as a way to reduce churn among existing subscribers, to draw customers from other operators and to attract Millennials, who many agree could be willing to make use of the high-end technology.

“Customers aren't demanding 4K, manufacturers are driving it now,” said John Dollin, Senior Systems and Operations Manager at Arsenal Football Club. “(Consumers) don’t care.”

Sebastian Becker, Western European Distribution Director for SPI International agreed, calling 4K announcements from some operators and content owners “a marketing play against 4K streamers” like Netfix and Amazon.

“It’s a marketing game,” he said. “2016 and 2017 could be big years, but until then it’s just foreplay.”

There will, said Simon Craddock, CEO of OnSight, be more than enough 4K content available for consumers when the technology is ready to roll out to the mainstream.

“More creators are looking to create in 4K,” he said, pointing out that costs to create dramas and other episodic content is just 10% to 20% higher than HD content creation because the infrastructure – to a large extent – already is in place. That wasn’t the case with 3D content, he said, which was substantially more expensive to create.

Creating 4K content does, because of the large amounts of data involved, put more pressure on the production chain throughout, said Craddock.

As to when 4K could actually go mainstream, the consensus on the panel was that it remained an unknown.

“People will just delay and wait for better technology,” Burghard said, pointing out that HD sales started slowly abd gained speed as prices came down and screen sizes went up.

Becker said he believed that many of the bigger platforms would have some offerings out in 2016, adding that it was unlikely that growth would die as 3D did after three years.

Stay tuned.

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