Why Business Should Keep an Eye on Ultra-High Definition Television

Carl Weinschenk
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Ultra-high definition (UHD) video and 4K have been slowly gathering momentum during the past few years, which is important for businesses to watch for at least a couple of reasons. Of course, businesses need to keep up with the latest production processes to keep their marketing efforts and outreach initiatives current. In addition, 4K infrastructure affects how carriers and service providers allocate their network resources and capex funding. The bottom line is that business planners should keep an eye on trends in the sector.

At Light Reading,  Alan Breznick, in a post written at the NAB Show and sponsored by NeuLion, updated progress being made by a couple of major firms in the sector. Univision streamed a soccer match a couple of months ago and plans to stream several more this summer and in the fall. AT&T’s DirecTV unit, in partnership with CBS, presented The Master golf tournament in 4K. DirecTV will offer 25 major league baseball games in the format.

Breznick sounded a word of caution:

Yet, even with these notable advances in UHD delivery, the consumer market for 4K video programming remains largely nascent and unproven. It's still by no means clear whether viewers will embrace UHD as the new HD or dismiss it as another consumer electronics industry gimmick, like the gone-but-not-forgotten 3D TV effort.

There does, however, seem to be a lot of ongoing production activity. This week, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment said that it would release “a broad selection of films” in UHD. Also today, Netflix said that by August, more than 100 hours of HDR programming will be available. That number will grow by 150 hours by the end of the year.

Of course, it wouldn’t be technology if there weren’t standards and guidelines. In fact, their appearance can be seen as a sign of progress. Today, the Ultra HD Forum released what it says is the first phase of end-to-end guidelines on live and pre-recorded UDH content. They cover production, distribution and consumer decoding of HDR and standard definition content. The release, which contains a link to summary description (though the full guidelines are only available to Ultra HD Forum members), deals with production workflows in a landscape in which backward compatibility is vital. Phase 2 of the guidelines will be released next year.

USA Today’s Bob O’Donnell lays out the land on the certification front. Essentially, there are two groups. The UDH Forum is one; the other is run by Dolby. Hopefully, the lines between the two are clear.

The line between consumer and business communications has never been thinner. Though the progress of 4K and UHD is not a top agenda item for business planners, it is something about which they should be aware. Its fate likely will affect how network service providers operate.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


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