After years of buzz, we are finally seeing some major leaps in streaming video quality. The Ultra-HD TV from Samsung stunned the crowd at CES 2014, and Netflix started its push for 4K content in last October, for good reason: not only does 4K content mean a higher subscription fee, Netflix also leveraged it to promote its Open Connect Initiative, an effort to partner with ISPs in various operating markets to localize substantial amounts of traffic with open peering.
That said, there are still some legitimate obstacles keeping 4K videos from becoming the norm in over-the-top streaming. Besides the fact that most of TV sets currently in the market have yet to add 4K support, streaming high-definition video to millions of users also poses a complex challenge to the broadband infrastructure. Recent reports claim that the upcoming new Apple TV model will not support 4K video streaming, citing additional production cost and low consumer interest as primary reasons.
While it is easy to see why Apple may choose not to tap into the nascent 4K content market just yet, in the long run, as production cost wanes and internet speed continues to improve, Netflix might just be getting the first-mover advantage as the ultra-sharp new standard of the streaming experience in the near future.
It’s easy to herald this the age of 4K after CES this month, but like 3D TV before it, it’s going to come down to whether or not there’s actual content in 4K that makes a genuine difference for users. So this Super Bowl, Fox is aiming to get ahead of 4K by showcasing its 4K camera capabilities. The stream for TV will be in 720p resolution, but at the big game there will be four 4K cameras that will help capture images in what Fox is calling “Super Zoom” – essentially, they’ll zoom in 720p to get hi-res zoom. The idea, for next season, is to get 8K cameras so that when they zoom and stream regularly it will be in 4K, so Fox is in essence preparing this resolution trick to be scaled up. It means that 4K might actually make a difference to sports fans in the near future, and as sports are a big driver of hi-res TV sales, the TV manufacturers who put money into 4K designs will be happy to hear about Fox’s utilization of the technology.
Amazon is planning to shoot its original content in 4K, the ultra-HD format that will be the industry standard in the living room…eventually. For now, 4K is practically a proof-of-concept with the lack of 4K TVs on the market and even less content available. It’s a ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario as TV manufacturers require content and content creators require an audience. Nevertheless, Amazon is positioning themselves at the forefront of innovation and will unquestionably give 4K some much needed momentum.
ESPN has decided to drop its dedicated 3D channel which launched in 2010, based on high costs, low consumer demand and lack of adoption from cable companies. Sports programming was the catalyst for HD adoption so the flagship sports channel’s decision to no longer support 3D may mark the end of the medium. Likely to supersede HD will be 4K (4x resolution of HD) which had a huge presence at this year’s CES.
Soon you could be streaming 4k video over your broadband network, and full HD to your mobile devices. The new H.265 video format has been approved by the ITU as a successor to the H.264 codec standard driven by the launch of the iPad and other post-Flash mobile devices. H.265 is informally known as High Efficiency Video Coding, and compatible chips are expected to appear within 12 to 18 months. Soon, as little as 20 Mbps of bandwidth could allow 4k video streaming.
CES has always been about jaw-dropping TV tech and this year will be no different. While Samsung’s $9,000 55 inch OLED TV made a big splash in 2012, we might see less innovation and more focus on “semi-affordable” products for existing technologies like 4K ultra HD along with OLED. It is also great to see CES hosting a full-day Second Screen Summit with executives from major networks, tech companies, and agencies including UM¹s Michael Barrett. We’ll be sure to fill you in on details of that event, which has a special panel dedicated to opportunities in the advertising world.
4K “Ultra-Definition” TVs Could Be The Next Breakthrough