Live 4K production six years away

Analyst Futuresource Consulting predicts Ultra-HD services could launch in three years with live 4K production up to six years away in Europe. Yet momentum for a U-HD broadcast is likely to face its biggest hurdle in establishing a sizeable base of 4K TV sets in the home, rather than any production and transmission challenges.
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Analyst Futuresource Consulting predicts Ultra-HD services could launch in three years with live 4K production up to six years away in Europe. Yet momentum for a U-HD broadcast is likely to face its biggest hurdle in establishing a sizeable base of 4K TV sets in the home, rather than any production and transmission challenges. According to figures supplied by the analyst, just 2000 4K displays will be in sold in the UK next year, rising to 47,000 in 2015 and 123,000 by 2016 – which is a total market penetration of 0.5%. The predications are similar for Germany - 147,000 (0.4% penetration) - and the US 1.6 million (1.3%) - in four years time. All major TV hardware brands are bringing 4K sets to market – starting prices around £20,000 - and the high-resolution displays, such as Sony’s 84-inch KD-84X9005 (pictured), will likely be a dominant trend at the Consumer Electronics Show in the New Year. Explained Adam Cox, Senior Market Analyst – Broadcast, Futuresource Consulting: “Although much of the acquisition in Europe is now done in HD, HD channels are still in the minority. HD has taken a considerable time to get to the stage it’s at currently and so 4K is therefore likely be adopted slowly as the industry (and consumers) are still transitioning to HD. Much depends on the success of 4K televisions, which to date is extremely limited. The installed base of 4K TVs will still be in its infancy, even in four years’ time, therefore the lack of a potential subscriber base will be an inhibitor.” The analyst said that pay-TV is going to drive forward the adoption of U-HD (4K) as it has done with HD and has tried to with 3D. “Pay-TV operators are able to generate additional revenue streams to pay for the investment needed in equipment and infrastructure, whereas broadcasters’ revenues remain pretty stable, particularly if they're publicly funded. This means that some broadcasters may struggle to pay for investment in 4K programme delivery.” With regards to the technology there are currently only a few professional camcorders on the market that can record 4K and most of these are focused on the digital cinema market. For television production outside of high-end drama, the equipment is not yet available. For example, noted Cox, “There are no high quality 4K monitors currently on the market to allow content originators or post houses to view and work with the content in 4K. The 4K that is being currently produced is largely confined to digital cinema and this is graded on expensive 4K digital cinema projectors. Elsewhere, 4K is being acquired, but downscaled for post-production.” In terms of transmission, the current bandwidth requirements for 4K/U-HD mean that satellite operators would see 4K as an opportunity, but realistically the bitrate needs to have to come down before it can be a viable commercial proposition for delivery. “However, much depends on the development of compression technologies: how far H.264 can be pushed and how quickly HEVC [H.265] can be implemented,” noted Cox. “The latter would involve the replacement of set top boxes, which is obviously a barrier to market entry.” Cox added: “Assuming the compression standards are in place then three years could be possible for the launch of services. This would be limited to movie channels in the first instance, however. Live 4K production could be as much as 5-6 years off in Europe.” – Adrian Pennington www.futuresource-consulting.com

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