Sky Deutschland is leading a demonstration of an end-to-end Ultra HD live on air broadcasting chain at IBC in tandem with Sony Pictures, 3net, SES and Pace.
There are rumours that the German pay TV operator may even announce an Ultra HD service as soon as next month.
At IBC2012 Sky Deutschland was one of the first broadcasters to publically announce its commitment towards the launch of Ultra HD services. Over the past 12 months the operator has added authority to that pledge in the form of several Ultra HD test productions, the support of respective standardisation efforts, and the analysis of potential new concepts for Ultra HD.
This September, Sky Deutschland, Sony Pictures and 3net will show a trailer comprising Ultra HD content, mixing sports, movies and documentaries, aired live over satellite by SES in a sponsored session free to all delegates.
In a step forward on similar approaches at IBC last year, this time the content will be encoded in HEVC by Harmonic and will be received by a prototype Ultra HD receiver presented by Pace. The results will be displayed on several Sony 4K displays of different sizes.
Speaking at Beyond HD Masters last month Stephan Heimbecher (pictured), head of Innovation and Standards, Sky Deutschland – who is leading the presentation at IBC – said: “We must be patient and not rush to be first, because if we get it wrong it may be the end of it.”
At IBC, Sky Deutschland says it aims to take the consumer perspective in showing how more, faster and better pixels (colourimetry, latitude, frame rates rather than just resolution alone) might be able to wow the customer.
It is an attempt to nip industry and consumer scepticism about the format in the bud. Some observers are questioning the value proposition of 4K to the consumer and wondering whether they will see any value to an Ultra HD picture over HD.
William Cooper, Founder & chief executive of Informitv, who is chairing a debate on the topic at IBC, says there are strong arguments on both sides.
“On one hand there is the technical imperative to improve quality, which is a focus for many of those attending IBC,” he says. “There is a lot of room for improvement on high-definition television, which compromises quality in many respects. UHD or 4K promises the next big thing in television.
“On the other hand, beyond a few enthusiasts, most people seem happy enough with the television they have. If you ask people what could be improved about television not many would say the resolution. There are many ways in which the quality of television could be improved without adding more pixels. There is a diminishing return on investment in technical quality for the average viewer.”
The problem, says Cooper, is that this is being driven by a technology push and marketing hype rather than any substantial evidence of consumer demand.
“There may be opportunities for pay-television operators, but what are the prospects for free-to-air broadcasters?” he asks.
By Adrian Pennington